Fall in Paris

Greetings from Paris everyone! I was going to write about how crazy cold it has been here but today, it was once again above 70F so summer has returned. I think my lesson about Fall in Paris is that it is unpredictable! Just a week ago, I was begging to turn the heater on and today I went out walking in a sundress! Oh how the weather has changed. The fall leaves are looking beautiful and giant piles of leaves have been accumulating all over the city. I’ve been happy and busy. Again, I do go to school and midterms season is here! I’ve avoided the worst of the exams but I still have my fair share of work. I last posted two weeks ago and while I’ve been out and about, it’s mostly been about getting more comfortable walking around Paris and feeling at home in the city. However, adventures continue to abound!

A Beautiful Bloom for the Jardin des Plantes

On Thursday after my last post, I finally made it to L’Orangerie! This museum was originally a greenhouse for orange trees, which were grown to feed the French public and monarchial obsession with oranges. It was later converted into a multi-use building and was proposed as an annex to the Musée du Luxembourg. It now houses the large panels of Claude Monet’s “The Waterlilies” and has space downstairs for temporary exhibitions. The chief draw for me was Monet’s work and it was incredible to view. When I went, there weren’t many people around and I was able to bask in the sheer immensity of the work. You really feel sucked into the pond where Monet painted. After seeing the real deal in Giverny, I have to applaud Monet’s skill in capturing their beauty for posterity. I also enjoyed wandering around downstairs where there were two temporary exhibitions. The visit did not take long, maybe an hour and a half total. I would recommend this to museum weary travelers to Paris or just students in need of a break! I know I needed one.

Inside La Felicita

Later that evening, I made my way to the hottest spot for drinks in town at La Felicita. I was able to enjoy a relatively cheap beer and got dinner as well. La Felicita appears to be a converted warehouse or some large space. It’s very cozy and the ambiance was amazing! It was wonderful to get to go and hang out with my friend. It felt almost like pre-Covid with the exception of the checking of the sanitary pass at the door. Hopefully, I’ll find some more great spots for drinks on the cheap in the future! I can’t spend all my money in France on happy hours!

Beautiful fall blooms at the marché on Saturday

The following weekend, I was able to enjoy some time for myself. M was traveling so I invited a friend over for brunch and we made American style pancakes! It was delicious and very fun to do on a weekend. That same day, I went to an Ethiopian restaurant with other friends and had a delicious traditional meal. I was the newbie to Ethiopian food in the group and had to learn to use my hands and the bread to scoop up dinner. It took some time but I eventually found success! I’ve found that in Paris, most of the cheaper or more accessible restaurants for my budget tend to be non-French food. I’ve had excellent Chinese, Korean, and Ethiopian food so far and I’m looking forward to trying many other new restaurants. On Monday, I was able to bake some cookies again! I found enough stuff to make my famous chocolate chip cookies and went for it! I was over the moon that the cookies turned out well and have added pictures below. It was the confidence boost that I needed and it helped me get through the rest of a crazy week! Our heating system was down for three days and I had to make due with no heating or hot water just as the Paris weather turned freezing cold! M and I made it through together and I’m very happy to be enjoying my heating when needed. With the weather turning nice again, M and I had a bit of a laugh over the trials and tribulations of the previous week.

Chocolate Chip Cookies! My sustenance through our heating troubles!

On Saturday the 16th, I finally made it to the Jardin des Plantes for a nice walk! I had been planning on going earlier in the week but the heater troubles kept me at home. I had a lovely walk in the sun and got to see all sorts of different plants. It was mind-boggling that this lovely garden was in the middle of Paris. When I walked in, it felt like a different world. The sun was out and I took advantage by slowly making my way through the different gardens. I loved the Alpine garden but the garden for the school of biology was pretty neat as well. It just seemed amazing that the garden was still in bloom in October. Of course, the roses had been cut back and were ready for winter but there was plenty of beauty all around.

A California Brown Bear sculpture at the Jardin des Plantes

After my time in the Jardin des Plantes, I walked over to the nearby Paris Mosque. I had stopped by on my Paris bike tour but was so entranced by the sweets that I had to come back. The mint tea is incredible and so are the Arabic desserts that they have available for dining in or takeaway. The price for tea is 2 euros and each of the little cakes are 2 euros. I thought it was a great deal and a real treat on a Saturday. Of course, the mosque’s restaurant and tea house are the hottest spots in Paris on a Saturday so it was tough to get a seat but once I did, I was able to enjoy a lovely repast that fueled my walk home! And that’s been the biggest things I’ve done these past two weeks. I’m trying to balance my obsessive desire to see every inch of Paris and also focus on my studies. I’m excited for fall break in just a few weeks and can’t wait to share my new adventures with you guys after the break. Until then, happy travels!

Where Have I been for Three Weeks?

I wish I had a more exciting answer but I actually have had a terrible cold! After my last post, I had a couple days of wonderful adventures but soon fell horribly ill! I’ve heard that other people have had a terrible cold recently so at least it’s not just me but it really knocked me out. I forgot that I haven’t had a cold or anything since the pandemic because of not being around that many people. I ended up with a bit of a lingering cough which is still bugging me but getting better. I’m almost glad I got ill while in France. It sounds crazy but I have always wanted to use the services of the magical pharmacies here and I got a solid chance to do so! By the end of my cold, I had been to three separate pharmacies on three separate visits so I got to meet all the pharmacists in my neighborhood! I’m lucky that I had a lovely host mom who made sure that I was taking care of myself and made so much soup to make my throat better. That helped as did the buckets of ice cream I ate…perhaps not the best food for a cold but it really hit the spot when I was down in the dumps. So in lieu of my weekly blog posts, I decided to aggregate the adventures of the past three weeks into one post. I had two great adventures before my illness and just got back from another weekend jaunt to Dijon. Without further ado, my adventures!

Early Morning Louvre

The Thursday following my last blog post, I was at the Louvre! Despite the lack of visitors to France in general, plenty of people are coming to the Louvre and the only ticket available was a 9am entry ticket. I got there bright and early and captured this lovely photo of the main triangle. I decided to tackle the Louvre with the help of Rick Steves’ audio tour which is available for free through his app. The tour was all about hitting the greatest hits of the Louvre and I felt very satisfied with my visit. The audio guide makes a disclaimer at the beginning that some exhibits may be moved or in storage and I’m glad that it was mentioned because this happened to me twice during the tour. Thankfully, I was able to figure my way around obstacles (hall renovations and missing statues) but if you aren’t able to, there are museum docents in almost every room in the more popular galleries. The audio tour focused on the Danton wing and covered masterpieces like the Venus de Milo to the Mona Lisa to Eugene Delacroix’s painting of Liberty Leading the People. It was AMAZING to see all of those pieces in the same place. I’ve been seeing them and studying them since I was a little girl and it was truly awesome to see them in person. With the audio guide, it took me about an hour and a half to see the greatest hits so I had some time to wander around. I really don’t think it’s possible to see the Louvre all in one day and I realized that since I’ll be in Paris for a bit, I can always go back if I realize that I missed something. I ended up touring the decorative arts section and the apartment recreations which were neat. The Louvre seemed pretty empty to me and I relished the chance to feel like I had the Louvre all to myself. It did start towards the end of my visit but none of the crowds that I saw seemed like pre-covid size. I left shortly before noon as I was all museum-ed out for the day. Again, one of the advantages of living in Paris means that I don’t feel as stressed about seeing everything all at once. I’m still not sure what my final verdict on the Louvre is! I definitely didn’t like it as much as the Musee D’Orsay because some galleries just seemed filled with the same stuff but again, it had so many amazing things! One of the advantages and disadvantages of using a giant palace for a museum is the space. I think both museums have their merits and if you are visiting, you should try to see both. However, I did like the Musee D’Orsay because it felt much less formal to visit. I had to prepare a lot before going to the Louvre and I would say that it was comparable to my experience at Versailles in terms of planning. I hope to finish seeing the Musee D’Orsay soon and I’ll definitely be back at the Louvre sometime soon but I have a few museums on my list before I get back there.

The Senat

Next up on the adventures was seeing the Palais du Luxembourg! The weekend of the 17th and 18th were the Patrimony days in France which meant that many museums had free admission or places that weren’t normally open for tours allowed visitors. A friend, L, mentioned that the Senat, housed within the Palace, would be open for walk through tours and I jumped on the opportunity. It took us about three hours total from standing in line to leaving the petite palais but it was worth it! I got to see all the parts of the Senat and gawk at the incredible architecture and interior decorations. The ceilings were incredible! I also felt very welcome. They had English language materials which helped to introduce me to the French Senat and their work. It also had very helpful background on the building and the paintings within. It was a great experience and I’m very glad I went!

The Arc, Wrapped!

On Monday, L and I went to go see the Arc de Triomphe which was wrapped for the Christo and Jean Claude art installation. When I first got to Paris, a month and a half ago now, I saw the scaffolding on the Arc and thought they were just repairing parts of the Arc. However, now I know better! They were putting scaffolding on the exterior so they could better secure the fabric to the art. The wrapping of the Arc was the culmination of the work of Christo and Jean Claude who were known for wrapping other famous monuments such as the Reichstag in Germany and the Pont Neuf in Paris. There were very helpful guides everywhere, sponsored by the Christo and Jean Claude Foundation, who were handing out fabric swatches of the same material that the Arc is wrapped in. It was a neat thing to see and really a once in a lifetime experience. The Arc is now unwrapped and I think they’re still removing parts of the art installation. Hopefully I’ll get to see the original Arc soon but it was neat to see it wrapped.

Burgundy Wine Trail

After my Arc adventures, I ended up in bed for a whole week trying to recover from my cold which lingered into the next week. However, by the beginning of October, I was feeling suitably recovered and took a train visit to go see Mo in Dijon. I left on a late train on Friday and came back late on Sunday night. On Saturday, I took a bike tour with Actif Tours which has two offices in the Burgundy Region. The bike tour entailed two wine tastings and a lunch along with the bike rental, helmets, and baskets along with a pre-set gps route for us to follow. I ended up on the bike tour with a lovely couple fresh off their wedding and it was fun to chat with them. Leaving Dijon was a bit stressful but we managed! We left town and got onto the bike path that goes through the vineyards. It was around 10am when we left and we got to see some of the harvesting of the grapes which was neat. It was crazy how you could go straight from town into the vineyards on the bike trail. The bike paths were supposed to be paved which I think was a bit of a stretch for the imagination. The paths aren’t very well-maintained which made me glad for the heavy duty rentals and the bike helmets. One wrong turn could have landed any of us in some serious trouble so I would caution any potential tour takers of this risk! We rolled up a bit late to our first tasting but were still able to get in. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the tasting room, the staff, or the wines at the first stop so that was a bit of a let down. The next stop for us was lunch which was INCREDIBLE. We were booked for lunch at a Michelin starred restaurant La Millésime which was a welcome surprise. It was amazing and I cannot believe the quality of the food or the service. We started with shrimp tartare, then on to risotto with snails, and finished with a vanilla panna cotta with a divine raspberry jam on top. It was the best meal I’ve had in France so far. I was really blown away! We also had some great wine and coffee to go with our meal so kudos to the restaurant! After that, we slowly pedaled to our next tasting, at a much more leisurely pace with our very full bellies! We got to the last tasting stop at Côte de Nuits which was much better than the first. It was more set up for groups and we had a personal sommelier who walked us through the tasting. I ended up getting a few bottles which were pricier than I’d like but they’ll be a nice treat later in the year! We took a train back with our bikes and ended up safely back in Dijon! A wild weekend and a fun experience in Dijon. And that’s a wrap on my adventures for now, I do have to do school work at some point! Happy travels and stay safe out there!

What is a Normal Week?

Hello everyone. It’s been another week in my new life and it isn’t quite getting to that “normal” equilibrium that I thought it would. I think there’s a couple factors preventing my life from settling into the daily routine. I’m in a totally new country, with a ton of new experiences at my finger tips, and a healthy fear of not getting to do anything of this again after my two years. That being said, I took a LOT of time this past week to chill. It may seem like I’m constantly on the go but I do rest. Taking time for myself means that I can recharge my batteries and it is incredibly important while I’m still in the honeymoon phase with Paris. So rest assured, there have been a few nights cuddled up with Netflix or going to bed early so I can wake up feeling recharged. With that in mind, let me tell you all about what’s been going on for me during this past week.

Monday was more of a school oriented day. I have one class and had also signed up for some French tutoring. Due to some logistics issues with my schedule and being restricted to a certain number of courses, I had to drop my French class which was disappointing. However, there are a lot of virtual language sites where you can engage with a language learning software or an actual tutor. I chose the tutoring option as I’m trying to improve my verbal skills before really diving into grammar specifics. I realized that this is what I wanted to work on when I was at the farmer’s market and realized that bantering with vendors was a key part of each transaction. Unfortunately, my French skills are not quite there yet so French tutoring it is! I am using Verbling, which was a suggestion from back home. I’ll be doing this lessons on a weekly basis for most of this semester so I’ll keep everyone updated on my progress!

The entrance to the Musee D’Orsay

Tuesday was my first research methods class which seemed overwhelming. It’s crazy to think that I’m going to try and write a thesis during the next two years but somehow I will do it! After class, I treated myself to another visit of the Musee d’Orsay. I’ve heard from a few friends that they prefer this museum to the Louvre and I’ll let you guys know the final verdict in next week’s blog post. This time, I worked through the left side of the ground floor as well as most of the second floor. I loved walking through the Art Noveau exhibits on the second floor because they have so many furniture pieces that they are able to recreate full rooms. It was lovely to bask in the art and because I’m not really pressed for time, I can come back as often as I’d like. I have mentioned that students usually get in for free if you live in the EU economic area as I now do with a long stay visa for France. I’m definitely taking advantage of this while I’m in France and can’t wait to explore other museums. The Centre Pompidou has a Georgia O’Keefe exhibit on during the fall so I’ll have to stop by sometime soon! I’ll be returning to the Musee D’Orsay soon to finish the other floors but I’m also enjoying taking in the art at a glacial pace so I can really appreciate it all.

Dijon City Center

Wednesday was an exciting day and full of more firsts for me! I was planning on visiting my friend Mo in Dijon over the weekend, but due to some logistics issues, the best time for me to go ended up being on Wednesday. To get there, it’s about an hour and a half by SNCF, the national high speed rail company in France. I also used their trains to get to Giverny and they have student discounts which are super helpful! The student discount costs about 49 Euros and it lasts for a whole year. It’s for students 12-25 and provides discounts on all types of train tickets. This has allowed for a travel subsidy for my adventures which I really appreciate! Being a student in Europe is really nice because of the discounts. I have many more opportunities to see amazing museums and travel around at a more affordable price. I’m enjoying being able to take advantage of it! Anyway, I took a late afternoon train into Dijon to visit Mo and stayed for two nights. The first night, we went out for some yummy cocktails and a bite to eat. We went to the Petite Reign and had a delicious meal. We had planned on getting just cocktails and dinner (a delicious truffle ravioli!) but saw the desserts for some other patrons go by and had to have some. We both got caramel chocolate cake with whipped cream on the side and it was divine. There are no pictures because it was consumed SO quickly. It was brownie like but so much better. I know I’ll be spending a lot of time in the kitchen trying to find just the right recipe to recreate the taste.

Dijon is a cute town and is easily digestible in a day or two. It is the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Burgundy, and was the center of a very powerful province during the Middle Ages. There are a few museums scattered around the town as well as three cathedrals. I couldn’t believe the amount of cathedrals and was able to visit each which was neat and I got to compare the architectural style of all three. The Ducal palace has been converted to an art museum called Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. I loved visiting the art museum as I just love art (see previous posts). Just getting to see a bunch of different art pieces is a great time to me and a picture above shows my strong appreciation for the finer points of historical portraiture. After the art and cathedrals and many, many steps, we walked over to Mo’s favorite tea shop or a salon de the as they are called here. We got some lovely tea, mine was Opera Blu and I will try to find some in Paris going forward. We also had MASSIVE ice cream sundaes that ended up being a large portion of our dinner. Overall, an incredibly satisfactory visit! I’ll be going back soon for a bike tour of some nearby vineyards. Dijon is in the Burgundy region which is well-known for its wines. Unfortunately, Rick Steves had little advice for my visit to Dijon so I found the bike tour the day before I left and it was too late to book! I’m excited to go back and see Mo and enjoy some of the regions’ fine wines.

A Dame Blanche and an Opera Blu Sunday

Friday was a bit hectic because of arriving back in Paris and promptly running to get to class on time. I was able to catch up with some fellow students and go for a happy hour around Châtelet, a well known spot in Paris for drinks with friends and a very famous jazz scene. M had recommended that I visit with some friends and I was glad to make that happen through serendipity. I tried a red beer or a biere rouge for the first time and loved it! It’s the first kind of beer that I’ve found that I really enjoy drinking. On Saturday, I went for a bike tour through Paris with the Bike About Tours Company that operates in Paris. They were a lovely group to bike around with, even if Paris is a bit of a hazard zone for cyclists and pedestrians! It was neat to be guided around the city and feel like a tourist for a little bit! I would recommend their tours for English speaking tourists and I’m hoping to go on a longer day trip with them when they resume doing them. Covid is still impacting their operations so I was glad that I could go on a ride with them through the city. The cafe where they work out of is also a neat gathering spot for expats of all countries so I’m excited to go back sometime soon for a big latte. I also went thrift shopping afterwards which was a learning experience! I’m trying to be both eco-friendly, but am very mindful of the extended summer that Paris is experiencing. Just to be on the safe side, I wanted to pick up a few additional items so that I wouldn’t sweat through my three summer outfits. I started at an outdoor flea market, but the one I was at was in no way cheaper than a real thrift store so I headed over to the Croix Rouge to pick up a few things. The selection was fantastic and I felt much better about getting clothes that I knew wouldn’t be needed for that much longer but would make me much more comfortable in the near term.

Sunday was another day that was meant to be chill but ended up being busier than I anticipated. I really do go to graduate school in between these adventures and was hoping for a solid day to plow through my readings and that sort of happened. I got a good three hours and got everything finished for my first class of the week but I had a planned activity at 2 that cut through my afternoon. I went on a little expedition of the Paris Catacombs! I went with a group of grad students from Sciences Po because we all figured that we owe it to ourselves to go see one of the most famous sites in Paris. It was neat and less creepy than I thought but I don’t think it was worth the 29E entry fee that you have to pay if you reserve in advance. It was more of an exploration of the story of the city of Paris and its relationship with the land, specifically the stone quarries and the cemeteries. The bones themselves were cool to see. I’m glad I went with a group because it made me a little braver going down there and we all went out for coffee afterwards to decompress. The catacombs were a little cold because they’re so far below ground. but I felt fine wearing a light autumn outfit. There is a lot of walking involved and the catacombs walls “sweat” moisture which made the expedition down there a little bit messier than I thought it would be. I think I would go with an actual guide next time if I did go again but I feel like it’s more of a one time experience. I will send out a warning to taller travelers if they plan on going…the ceilings are VERY low so if you do visit, be prepared for crouching. Anyway, that’s the end of my adventures for this past week so I’ll be seeing you all next week. Happy travels!

School Starts!

Hi guys! School started this past week; I actually wrote my blog post last week after my first day! Being a Masters student seems to be both a very chill gig during the start of school and hellacious when all the final papers are due! I’m trying to take advantage of the continued summer weather in Paris and the relaxed start of the school year to continue exploring all of Paris and its surroundings. I’ve realized that to make this as easy as possible for me, this is really going to read like a travel diary for the moment. I may slow down later in the year because of school so I’m trying to prepare book reviews for later in the year when I might have a little bit more stress. For now, my Paris adventures continue! This past week was a bit of a blur because of school but I’ll try to detangle it here for the interested reader.

I’m sure I briefly mentioned Monday in last week’s post but it was a more normal day. Going to a new school in a new country was a lot and I am trying to pace myself. While I am exploring at a hectic pace, I’ve had to remind myself that this is not sustainable and that I will be here long enough to enjoy all the sites. I think it’s also a lot of bottled up energy from the pandemic because I was somewhat limited for a while and the opportunity to just see new things is too tempting to pass up. However, I must pace myself otherwise I will be out of things to do and personally burnt out. After school, I ended up going to the Jardin du Luxembourg and reading for a bit. I also discovered that the Medici Fountain is finally open after being closed for restoration and the picture below shows the beautifully restored fountain. I walked over to see it, snapped a few pics, and then headed home for another one of M’s delicious dinners!

Newly Restored Medici Fountain

Tuesday was a little more exciting because I went with a group of friends from my French class to Cafe Flore which is very, very famous both because of its associations with the literati of the 1920s and its current Instagram fame. The cafe itself was well known because it was frequented by many American expatriates during the Roaring Twenties but is no longer the cheap place to eat it once was! I did enjoy my hot chocolate and quiche that I got while there, but it cost a pretty penny. The hot chocolate alone was nearly 8 Euros so I will be looking for a regular lunch spot elsewhere! It was cute but we didn’t get to sit at an outside table and it felt weird eating in an almost empty dining room. Loved the hot chocolate but will go to another cafe for my regular coffees. Other than that, took another turn around the Jardin and headed home! I also believe this was the day that I first bought stamps in Paris which was quite an adventure. I had to figure out where to buy them (the tobacco shop which helpfully has postcards out front) and was confounded when I got them and realized they didn’t have a sticky back. So back to my host mom I went to understand how to use them. It turns out that France still has lick-able stamps which was a wild concept to me but quite normal to them. After a bit of wrangling, I finally sent my postcards out through one of the yellow mailboxes which in Paris have two slots, one for intra-Paris mail and the other for “other departments and international mail”. A neat organizing system and easy enough for even the most befuddled of letter senders such as myself!

Wednesday began pretty low-key because my afternoon class is later but it was still packed! I only had one class and had a regular ole lunch from the school cafeteria which was surprisingly good if a little bready for my taste. At this point, I hadn’t yet discovered the Rest’U, the cafeteria for students in France that provides full meals for 3.30 Euros! Amazing! So I settled for one of the many sandwiches offered at the school cafe. On Wednesday, I also stuck around school for an after school lecture by Olivier De Schutter! He is currently the UN Special Rapporteur for Poverty but was previously a two time Special Rapporteur on the right to food. During his tenure doing that, I read many of his reports for my research. After the lecture, I walked over to the Quai d’Orsay for a drink with my fellow Masters Students. What was really amazing was during my walk back to the Metro home, I passed through the Champs Elysees without even realizing it! My geographic intuition has a lot still to learn in Paris!

Shining Lights over the Seine at Night

Thursday was more of a personal day for me. I had a bit of a meltdown in the morning. Figuring out where my first class of the day was ended up being much more of a challenge than I thought it would. I ended up running all over the Saint Germain de Pres neighborhood and finally finding my class after a forty minute detour. Not fun and not a great way to start your day. However, it happens to all of us whether at home or in a new country. Picking myself up from that took a bit of time. I had other problems like how to find a book in English that I now needed for one of my courses, and M was very helpful there. She suggested Gibert Joseph, a massive bookseller in Paris that has a couple of big stores nearby. It ended up being so much more convenient than I thought it would be! I was able to go online, find my book, pay for it, and collect it within two hours!!! Woohoo! I also grabbed a gelato on the way back home which really perked me up. I don’t often use food as a reward but that gelato just hit different. I did need to treat myself and was glad to be able to do so!

Friday was more low-key. I had plenty of time in the morning to take care of business and try a new restaurant called Egg and Co in the 6th. It was very good and reasonably priced. The restaurant sells itself as a restaurant focused on eggs, but they’re really more of a brunch spot. It was nice and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch before dashing off to class. After class, I got the chance to hang out with some new friends! I’ve been trying to get out of my shell a bit because socializing can be hard but it’s so important in a new place! So this is me trying to follow my own advice.

An open air market from Saturday, 09/04

On Saturday, I was finally able to go to the fresh market with M. It was fun to watch M talk with the vendors and figure out what we would be eating for the next week. I loved the fishmonger’s stall. It was a pleasant, albeit different experience to see the whole fish and then watch the men fillet the fish right in front of you! Really brought me closer to my dinner! We walked around a bit on our way home, taking time to also get fresh bread from the boulangerie which was a treat. M has introduced me to bread made from corn flour and it’s scrumptious. I love eating it and as we are going through a loaf a week, we were in desperate need of more bread by Saturday. Laden with our purchases, we walked back home. As I am a student, I did have plenty of readings to keep me occupied into the evening. I had to put my studies down eventually and headed to an outdoor disco on a boat in the Seine near the Right Bank. 10/10 would recommend and headed home after a late night because I knew I would have an early morning the next day!

Countryside around Giverny with some very cute cows

Sunday was the crown jewel of my week. Per a Rick Steves France 2020 travel book, I had decided to try going to Giverny for the day to see Claude Monet’s house. I was able to go with a school friend and we had to leave very early in the morning to make our ticket time for the house. The train to Giverny is about 45 minutes to an hour from Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris. We left on the 8:10 train and got into Vernon around 9. The train station is about 4km from Monet’s house so we either had to hoof it or rent bicycles. We chose the bicycles and it was about 12 Euros for regular ones. There were some electric ones for rent at another shop for 15 Euros, but I don’t love electric bikes and enjoy the exercise so we chose the regular ones from Gare d’Arrivee per the Rick Steves book. The ride to Monet’s house was lovely; once you were out of Vernon proper, it really felt like the countryside. I got to see all sorts of farm animals and rolling hills. Very bucolic! We did hit a few snags and rolled into Giverny around 10, thirty minutes after our entry slot, but this wasn’t a huge issue. At the moment in France, most museums will only accept people who are going with a reserved time slot along with the pass sanitaire. I had been showing my vaccination card which worked fine. I finally got my pass this week which has made things easier. Going to Monet’s actual house was wonderful and the curators have worked meticulously to restore the museum, as well as arranging for loans of artwork so that they can show the artwork that hung on the walls during Monet’s later years. The house itself felt like something out of a Wes Anderson movie, each room had its own color scheme and matching decor. I’m glad I didn’t do a guided tour of the house because of the time pressure I would have felt however it would have given my more historical background on Monet and his life which was entirely lacking from the museum signage. If I went with a group, I definitely would have arranged for a guided tour. The gardens were amazing and it seemed like they were still in full bloom even though it is early autumn. The famous lily pond is across the street so we got there by a pedestrian tunnel that goes under the road. I found the little stream that runs through that part of the garden very beautiful so I took home a print of that. The famous lily pond is in its original condition but I found that it didn’t speak to me as much as Monet’s paintings of them do. I’m not sure if it was the right time of the year or day to see them so I may give them another chance in the future. The Monet house and gardens took about two hours so by the time we left, we were ready for lunch!

We both got the baked camembert, a traditional Norman dish

Lunch was based on another of Rick Steves’ recommendations at Hôtel Baudy, a site where many American impressionists used to gather. While we didn’t eat inside, the interior has been preserved so that you can experience the same ambience as the young American impressionists did so long ago. I had the baked camembert and LORDY was it delicious. I’m still not entirely sure what was in it (picture above) but WOW (definitely some tomatoes but beyond that, I was lost)! We walked around town a bit to get back to our bicycles then cycled back to the Seine and had a bit of a rest there. While at lunch, my friend had suggested we visit Chateau Bizy in the same town as the train station and the pictures online looked cute so we agreed to go. We selected a three o’clock time slot so we could make our way there at a leisurely pace and boy am I glad that we did! My mother once told me that during my parents’ chateau bike tour they discovered that all chateaus were up very large hills because that made them more defensible. Her words came back to me as my friend and I struggled to bike up the very large hill the chateau was on! We made it to the top, huffing and puffing, and had a bit of time to rest before our tour time. After the tour, we walked just a little bit of the gardens then headed back into town to catch the train. I wish we had more energy to walk more of the grounds because they were gorgeous but we were both exhausted. The train ride back felt long because we were tired and in desperate need of a cool sweet treat! Once back in Paris, we got gelato then went our separate ways to get ready for the week ahead!

That’s all for this most, more adventures to follow and maybe even a book review sometime soon! I have a bit of a backlog with those but I hope that you enjoyed this! Let me know if you have any France or European travel recommendations by commenting below! Happy traveling!

A New Chapter

Hi everyone. It’s definitely been a minute since I’ve posted and I wanted to update everyone on what’s going on and what this blog will be going forward. This past summer was incredibly busy for me, I had a full time internship while driving all over Southern California to see friends and family. However, sooner than I had thought possible, the day for my departure to France arrived. Today was actually the first day of my graduate program and I have been running around Paris trying to get settled for the past four days. I’m pursuing at Masters at Sciences Po in Paris and can’t even believe that I’m in Paris or could now call myself a full time graduate student. This big move has a couple implications for my life and my blog. For the foreseeable future, I won’t be updating with new baking recipes or doing so very rarely. I know that bakery is in the blog name but I am not in a living situation with easy access to my usual ingredients, pans, or oven and I want to not have the pressure on myself to create new recipes while I’m trying to settle in a whole new continent and a new way of life. But as I live in the patisserie capital of the world, I may be featuring cafes and boulangeries if I find good ones (and I sure hope I will!) If I do feature a bakery or restaurant, I’ll try to give some info on the bakery and maybe history on the dish or part of the dish. I’ll also try to mention where the cafe is and if not in Paris, give additional information such as town history or how to get there from Paris. However, I am still reading quite a bit so I’m hoping to continue to update the book section of the blog. I was reading Les Miserables over the summer which took up a LOT of my time but I’m now hoping for additional reading time to get through my massive pile of books of which, only a third of those made it to Paris with me. In addition to featuring good food and good reads, I’ll also be giving updates on my life in Paris and what I’ve been up to in the past week. If you’re a reader who doesn’t know me personally, this may not be as interesting to you and I won’t feel hurt if you do unsubscribe. The point of these updates is to keep track of all the wonderful things that I’ve been able to see and experience while here in France. I’m looking forward to two years of study and adventure while still getting to see my family and friends in the United States. I’m hoping to post once or twice a week depending on my schedule and what’s on my plate at the moment. I have midterms during the month of October on Saturdays which just seems cruel to my American self, but it is what it is, so my posting schedule may depend on exams or school work as I am here to actually get a degree believe it or not! I’ll start these updates today so get excited to here about my whirlwind first four days in Paris! Buckle up, this will be a long post!

When I saw whirlwind, I really mean it! I got in on Thursday, the 26th and landed about midday so I still had plenty of time to check out the city! I will add a note that I am fully vaccinated and able to do this but this is still not the case if you’re not. You can test every 72 hours but being unvaccinated makes entry into the EU right now pretty complicated. Case loads are also going up and I wouldn’t normally visit but this was a scheduled school year trip so I still went. I hope things normalize ASAP so everyone can enjoy travel but at this point, when that will happen is anyone’s guess. I’m staying with a host mom, M, for my first semester and her apartment is in the sixth district of Paris (6e). So I welcome any recommendations in the comments below, but try to keep my location in mind! I’m not as used to the Paris Metro as I’d like but I’m a quick study! On Thursday, I got settled in and M took me on a lovely tour of the neighborhood and out for a lunch at a local Italian bistro. We walked the city a bit and I got situated and ready for orientation the next day.

Friday was orientation day at Sciences Po and students were everywhere! I’m able to walk or take the metro and I’ve been walking while I wait for my student card to be processed which makes using all forms of public transport in the Île de France more affordable for students. Paris was still empty at this point, everyone is coming back from vacation this week because school officially starts next week, I think. It was nice to have the streets mostly to myself and not feel self conscious for goofing up the directions while trying to get there. Once I got there, I got my ID and listened to the general welcome session before heading to the Seine to eat my leftovers for lunch. I just sat down on a random spot because I was hungry, but I later saw that there were all sorts of benches and even small green spaces where I could have eaten. I also noticed that the Musee d’Orsay was right there and decided to try my luck trying to get in on my student card. In my experience in France and Spain, you’re able to enter national monuments and museums for free if you show student ID. I’m not sure if this just applies to residents or international students in France but in Spain, I was able to use my American student ID to get into the Prado for free. In any case, I was able to get in and spent a very pleasant hour looking at the right half of the first floor of the museum. I didn’t realize that it used to be a train station and it was GORGEOUS inside. It’s big and bright and was wonderful. I can’t wait to go back on another day to look at the sections I missed. On my way back to school (I had another welcome session, this time for my specific program, I walked to a tea shop, Marriage Frères, which was divine. They seem to have a million different teas and the man working the counter was exceptionally kind and helped me to find tea for me and my host mom so that we stay caffeinated! I then walked to a paper shop for some notebooks then back to school. After the orientation, I came home and collapsed because I was exhausted!

On Saturday, I went paddling around Paris. Not really paddling but just exploring. I had an appointment near Le Bastille around 9:30 so I walked to the column afterwards! I didn’t do much research and didn’t realize until my host mom told me that there was just a tower left, not the actual prison. The tower was neat and there were a lot of lovely cafes around the traffic circle. I also walked around the Saint Michael Canal which was lovely with quite a few green spaces lining the canal. On the way back to the cafes at the Bastille, I passed a few homeless tents which for me just shows that even the City of Light is an imperfect and unequal place, regardless of how lovely my neighborhood is. After walking the canal, I stopped at Cafe Milou which was good and had lovely service and a fantastic Cafe Vienna which is probably my favorite coffee drink in Europe. My understanding is that it’s European coffee (more like espresso) which LOTS of thick whipped cream. So I lived my best life and drank mine within five minutes of getting it! I then decided to take the 91 bus back to my neighborhood which was a good and bad decision. Unfortunately, on the weekends or maybe just at the moment, the 91 doesn’t go past Les Gobelins stop so while I got to see a lovely section of the city, I still had a long walk back. While walking, I ran into one of the three protests that I didn’t know was happening. I definitely need to check the news before going out and it was a scary experience for me. I will have to be more careful in the future! After getting home, I rested for a bit then went out to walk the city with M. We ended up doing a mini tour, walking from Les Halles mall all the way back home. On the way we saw so much of the city!! It was absolutely incredible and I couldn’t believe my eyes at all the beautiful sights. Even Notre Dame in her much diminished state was gorgeous in the light of the setting sun. It even sprinkled a little bit on the way home so we got to see a rainbow stretched over the city. I got home safe and sound and prepared for my big trip the next day!

Yesterday, I went to Versailles which was amazing! I got to see the Chateau of Versailles, the gardens, Le Grand Trianon, and Le Petite Trianon along with Marie Antoinette’s fake farm village which has been almost completely restored. It being a Sunday, there were slight complications in getting there so I ended up taking the ROPO Romboillet, a commuter train out to the Versailles-Chautiers train station and walking from there to the palace. I ended up walking around 11 miles that day, or close to 26 km! I was glad to be wearing my sneakers and got around on foot however for the less walking inclined there are golf carts and bicycles to rent to ride around the property. There is also a little train that goes around the palaces, but I missed it by a few minutes and had to shlep myself back to Versailles proper to see the gardens. I started in the palace itself and walked to Le Grand Trianon then walked over to Le Petit Trianon. It was amazing! I think Versailles was a lot to take in one day but I am glad that I did it! I loved the English gardens of Le Petit Trianon, they just felt so bucolic! The creation of such a place was definitely not the best use of funds for indebted nation during the seventeenth and eighteenth century but I really enjoyed being able to walk around yesterday. I also took the time before going over to Le Grand Trianon to enjoy a cappuccino next to the Grand Canal which was lovely. I did get to see everything I wanted to but did so at my own gentle pace. Seeing the length of this particular post, I’ll stop here. My weeks will likely be less jam packed in the future as school gears up but for now, I’m enjoying playing the tourist. Until next week mes amies!

Le Grand Trianon

Book Review: The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

I’m glad that I was able to grab this book right away after finishing The Golden Compass because I don’t know what I would have done otherwise. I raced through this book, absolutely devouring each page. I think I finished it in a day or two and I read it so quickly after The Golden Compass that I was debating putting the two together in a book review. However, the plots differ quite a bit and I felt that it was unfair to the author to lump them together even if they were a delight to devour one after the other. This book was just as magical to me as The Golden Compass. Pullman creates new main characters that he is able to masterfully tie into the main storyline as if they were meant to be there all along. It makes me wonder if he had mapped out the wider story before writing The Golden Compass or if it was the product of workshopping various ideas together to fill out Lyra’s universe. Either way, what a book! It did get a little confusing at points because Pullman introduces SO much new material in this book and just expects the reader to absorb it as quickly as he’s writing it. In order to clarify things, let me explain the plot briefly to help you get your bearings a little better.

By the end of the first book, Lord Asriel has jumped into another world and Lyra decides to pursue. However, she ends up in an entirely different world, our own. She meets a young boy, Will, and they begin to search for Will’s father, John Parry. Still in Lyra’s world, the witches and Lee Scoresby seek out Lyra by any means possible. Lee Scoresby searches for Stanislaus Grumman in an effort to locate an entrance into the world where Lyra is. At the end, all are reunited, Grumman, Lyra, Will, and the witches but all is not what it seems. Meanwhile, Lyra is still being pursued by the dreadful Mrs. Coulter and has to evade her minions throughout the book. The hallmark of this new book is the world hopping, which Will and Lyra do multiple times in an effort to evade their enemies. This world hopping can be disorienting to the reader but Pullman describes each new world with a few specific clues that readers can use to distinguish where Lyra and Will have ended up. Pullman does a great job of giving each of these worlds their own characteristics and paints a rich picture of a multiverse where Lyra and Will can traverse across many unique worlds. I loved this book just as much as The Golden Compass and hope that my readers get the chance to read this book as well as The Golden Compass. I would recommend against reading the books out of order as you may lack crucial information from the previous book. Happy Reading!

Book Review: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

This book review has been a long time coming! It’s been over a month since my last post and I appreciate the patience as I tackle a few old challenges and some new adventures! Finals were tough and I’m happy to be back at home and up to my old tricks once again! I’ve tried a few times to read The Golden Compass and almost finished it last time but didn’t quite get there. This time, I borrowed the whole series and set out to read them all. And WOW was I shocked at how good these books were. At the moment, I’m already halfway through the third book and the review for the second book should be out sometime soon. Pullman does an incredible job of creating entire new worlds that seemed pulled from nowhere and investing the reader into the little life of Lyra. I would like to address the biggest controversy around the books, which is that they are heretical or anti-God. I didn’t really understand why these claims were being made until I reached the end of the first book, then the lightbulb went off. They do have a distinctly anti-organized religion bent and one could even say they are anti-God. However, these are fantasy novels and are not being presented as factual by Pullman. I feel that they might not be appropriate reading for a very religiously focused household but I think that with the use of deeper literary analysis, these books can be understood just fine. I also have a strict policy of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. These books contain some fantastic writing and I feel transported every time I open them. Some people may take offense at the longer plot points but I don’t think that is any reason to deprive yourself of some truly fantastic fiction. With the elephant in the room addressed, let’s move on to the actual book!

The Golden Compass follows Lyra Belacqua, a precocious eleven year old and her beloved daemon, Pantalaimon. Lyra has grown up running feral through the halls of Jordan College in Oxford and becomes swept away from her beloved home and friends in a tide of destiny. She travels with gypsies, explores the Arctic, befriends an armored bear, and confronts the horrors sponsored by her own mother. By the end she is reunited with Lord Asriel, her guardian but that is certainly not the end of her story. Lyra uses her wits and innocence to bend others to her will and complete her destiny. Lyra is a wonderful character and following her journey in the book was a joy. Not only is Lyra a marvel of literary creation, all of the lands that she travels through are described so vividly that they feel as real as the chair that I’m sitting on while I read. If you couldn’t already tell, I loved this book. I know that it’s classified as young adult fiction but I really felt that it was a book that was more meant for adults? I enjoyed it much more as a young woman than I would have in my younger years.

Book Review: A Queen in Hiding by Sarah Kozloff

What are you supposed to do after finishing an epic fantasy novel like The Priory of the Orange Tree? Obviously, jump into another fantasy series of which you only happen to have the first book! Yes, this was my big brain move to try and avoid the reader’s crash after finishing The Priory of the Orange Tree. This novel first came on my radar after reading a book review of the final novel in the series, Cerulean Queen, in the Wall Street Journal over the past year. After that review, I put the first in the series on my booklist and the rest is history! This is yet another birthday book so shout out to my brother for the birthday present! Thank you!!! Books are one of my favorite presents and they make up the majority of any gift list I am ever asked to provide. But without further ado, my take on A Queen in Hiding.

A Queen in Hiding tells the tale of Cerulia, the princella of Weirendale and follows her plight from a comfortable existence surrounded by nobles in the castle to becoming the foster child of a farming family. Her mother, Queen Cressa, flees the capital of Weirendale after discovering a nefarious plot against herself and her daughter, placing Cerulia in the hands of a peasant family and leaving to try and recapture her throne. The novel spans about a decade and explores the unrest occurring throughout the Nine Realms, foreshadowing the foes that Cerulia will have to defend herself against once she tries to reclaim her throne. The novel is a lovely read, not quite as entrancing as some, but with a good story and a plucky heroine. I would recommend this to lovers of young adult novels and fantasy in general. It’s a very female focused novel which I adore and found to be really refreshing. I hope that you get a chance to try reading this novel and happy reading with whatever is on your night stand these days!

NYT Butterscotch Cake

This recipe was a request from one of my friends and I can never refuse a friend! I put out a call for what people thought I should do next on my Instagram and she sent me this! It looked delicious and it ended up making one monster of a cake! I would recommend making this one for a group, it took me about two weeks to finish it off myself after I gave her half…it was a lot of cake! It was delicious but the flavor may not be for everyone! It doesn’t taste quite like caramel, contrary to the description of the recipe from the New York Times cooking section. It is definitely more of a butterscotch cake and I really enjoyed it. If you’re not a butterscotch person, you could still make the cake but change up the frosting type. The frosting is incredibly thick and lends most of the butterscotch flavor. I also followed the recipe to a tee and I would recommend not doing any crazy substitutions until after you’ve made the recipe once. I’ve found that it’s easier to substitute and get creative when I’m not forced to do so by my lack of ingredients and easier still when I’m substituting in a recipe that I’m familiar with. I’d be pretty hesitant to substitute in a complicated dessert recipe because I worry about it going wrong and wasting all the ingredients!

So how did this recipe go for me? Honestly, pretty well! The cakes were easy enough to make and once made, the cake kept really well in the refrigerator. I’d even say that I preferred to eat it cold out of the refrigerator than fresh out of the oven. This recipe calls for a stand mixer but I used a handheld. If you prefer one or the other, use that, it doesn’t matter a ton in this recipe. I think the trickiest part of the recipe was the icing. I didn’t have a problem making it on the stove but it was really hard to actually ice the cake. I choose to drizzle the icing onto the cake after I had put it on the cake stand and the icing got everywhere. Not only was the icing messy, it also hardens immediately as it cools which meant that it hardened all over my prep table as it oozed off the cake. Definitely not the ideal especially as I was frantically trying to ice it before I was expecting a delivery…. It was messy but I’d be happy to do it again now that I know about the potential for mess. I would recommend doing two passes of icing on top, an initial drizzle over the top then one last pass to even out the layer. Doing a smaller layer twice will help to keep the mess to a minimum and prevent any unnecessary icing loss. I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I did and happy baking! Let me know if you have any ideas of what I should try next in the comments below!

NYT Butterscotch Cake

For the Cake

  • 225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 375 grams (3 cups) self-rising flour
  • 400 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 240 milliliters (1 cup) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Icing

  • 225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 440 grams (2 packed cups) dark/light brown sugar (OG recipe calls for dark, I used light)
  • 120 milliliters (1/2 cup) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 305 grams (3 cups) sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour 2 nine inch cake rounds.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, four minutes. Scrape as you cream if you can.
  3. Add eggs in one at a time, mixing well and then scraping the bowl. Then alternate adding in flour and buttermilk, starting with flour and ending with flour. Add the vanilla extract last and mix gently to combine.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans (It was roughly 650 grams in each pan for me). Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, 30-40 minutes depending on your oven. Let cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out into racks and let cool completely.
  5. For the icing, melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over low heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk to combine. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat and let bubble for five minutes, whisking constantly to prevent any of the mixture from burning.
  6. After five minutes, carefully and slowly add the buttermilk, stirring constantly until it comes to a roiling boil. Remove from heat and add salt. Transfer to a bowl.
  7. Mixing on low, add the confectioner’s sugar, whisking until smooth. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Icing should be glossy and pour easily.
  8. While the icing is still hot, spread one cup over the top of the bottom layer then add the top layer. Use the rest of the icing on the top and sides of the cake. It will set as it cools so work quickly and carefully.
  9. Enjoy your cake!