Wednesday, 20 July 2016

France Day Sept: Thin and fat

Bonjour! I've just returned from a vacation in France and now for the travel diary because my memory is terrible so I need to recap it all. This was a family vacation to catch the Euro Cup courtesy of my aunt and uncle, without them, this trip wouldn't have happened.

France Day Sept

I'm sure that it's become clear by now that this trip was all about two things - Football and food. Day seven wasn't an exception but this time we went even more fancy pants, driving to the Relais & Chateau in Puymirol to eat at the two Michelin starred restaurant by Chef Michel Trama,L'aubergade. The decor of this place is just mad - it looks like what would happen if Narnia had a baby with a very old French interior designer.

Windy day

Ghost practising walking through walls but getting stuck

There's something strange afoot

The food itself was also fancy as one would expect – I’ve never seen an aubergine/eggplant sliced so thin. I’m not sure whether this is really all that delicious because, well, it’s almost non-existent and feels like I’m crunching on a deep fried cloud. But I’m no food expert so this probably counts as ignorant rambling but you know how great I am at rambling on and on.  

Pre-starter starter? That's a sushi in the middle!

Not sure what's up with the orientation but this is truffle and vegetables

Dieting aubergine/eggplant and carrot

squid ink something? I didn't eat this

Cod with gravy. Not shown - a side of peas

Strawberry tart dessert alien


Passionfruit alien sac

The end of the meal, the purple balls are delicious chocolate

After lunch, we walked across their chio courtyard to the hotel boutique part which really looked like a rich French person’s kitchen. Ok so I don’t normally eat foie gras because I find it really cruel to the goose/duck but it’s really tough to come to a place where foie gras production probably powers the economy and not eat/buy any so I bought three expensive jars to give away as gifts.

Dream larder

And as if that’s not enough, we then went to Musee de Foie Gras which is like a little curation of things about foie gras that’s situated at the farm where foie gras is produced. The museum is a small little tour of all things to do with foie gras but also a little bit specific to this farm (eg. What the process on this farm is like), it takes maybe 20-30 minutes to go through it all. While the display write-ups are in French, they give non-French speakers a paper with some basic summary of each station in English. Anyway, it’s quite easy to get a sense of what’s happening from all their posters and displays. The best part is the end where you sit in a darkened room and screen a short film about the farm’s history, their farming process and also how to prepare and enjoy the foie gras, with the owners preparing the food like cooking show hosts. When you’re done with the museum tour, you exit through the shop so you can buy the foie gras with the new knowledge of how to prepare it. Please remember to wear a chef’s hat.  

The duck's caption is probably 'eat me here, here and here'


Predators! Look at those mean angry faces

A hell lot of foie gras

We had a failed attempt to lure Jericho (see Day 4) round for dinner again because we got another BBQ going onto to have France say 'No monsieur' on us by chucking rain down and drowning out the fire and lots of our dinner. We miss you Jericho. We miss you dried potatoes. (We still ate soggy potatoes).

Mother Nature is a cruel b*tch

Key learnings:
  • Thinly slicing an aubergine is fancy. You can do it using these
  • There are different grades of foie gras, the best being foie gras mi cuit which is the kind without preservatives but it doesn't keep long and must be refrigerated and then consumed quickly after opening, sadly making it unsuitable for travel. 
  • Foie gras comes from both goose and duck liver. The farm at the Museum we visited says that they only fatten the birds' livers up for 2 weeks out of a year (I think. My memory is bad) and they sit around and massage the birds' throats while force-feeding. The rest of the time, apparently the birds wander around the farm having a grand ol' time. Please note that this has to be proven since I didn't see it with my own 2 eyes. 
  • Don't try to fight Mother Nature. She will always win.  
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

France Day Six: Six in French is 'Six'!!

Bonjour! I've just returned from a vacation in France and now for the travel diary because my memory is terrible so I need to recap it all. This was a family vacation to catch the Euro Cup courtesy of my aunt and uncle, without them, this trip wouldn't have happened.

France Day Six
Six is the day when the mice go out to play! The rest of the family planned for a wine-tasting lunch that would have surely been lost on me since I have a palate of a 6 year old, so Boo, Nommie and I went to Toulouse for the day instead. Having been just the day before, we figured we were pros at navigating the fourth largest city in France. However, much to our dismay, some of the main roads to get into the city centre were closed due to a strike! We went around and around! ARGH!

Po po in the back like 'Nah you can't have stuff, we have guns'

After we finally made it close to our destination, we drifted around and chanced upon a seemingly hipster gastro-pub of sorts  - Le Bistrot. The three of us ordered the same Le Bistrot burger since it's the name of the place so we figured it would be tops. It wasn't like a regular burger as we expected (by now, I had already come to terms with the fact that I probably would never really be able to know exactly what style my food would be in), it was kind of like a mince meat with hash brown as the bun, served with a side of mega delicious fries. LOVE. Potato heaven baby.

It's pretty hipster served on a slab right?

Having craved crepes since the day I landed in France, I finally got that crepe fix at a place La Creperie that was highly rated on Trip Advisor. Unfortunately, the place smelled like pee and honestly, the crepe, while quite luxuriously coated in dark chocolate, wasn't exactly mind-blowing. Trip Advisor, you've failed me.

Thankfully you can't smell the pee
Goooey goodness

To burn off those calories, I engaged in some of my favourite exercise - shopping! I ran around Toulouse trying on as much as I could because I'm a maniac. The guys went off on their own and were totally unsuccessful at buying anything.

When we met up again, they suggested watching Warcraft in 3D at a cinema they had stumbled upon while trying to escape the rain. Guess what? Warcraft is so BAD but it was pretty fun all the same.

This cinema is from the future yo

Although I was still pretty stuffed, we kept the party going and had dinner at a little hole in the wall called Forno Gusto which served delicious pizza. We had a 3 toppings pizza which was just the right amount. I loved the creamy truffle one I chose. We also had a deep fried cheese stuffed zucchini flower but it was... MEH.

Literally like 4 high tables only

Ready made pizzas for takeaway I presume
Zucchini flowers are the ones on the far right

Our delicious made-to-order delight
Key learnings:
  • How do you know when there's going to be a strike? I don't know. Will someone please enlighten me? 
  • So a pub is like, a normal pub. But a gastro-pub is a pub that serves better quality food. The more you know!
  • The summer rain in Toulouse is very strange, it couldn't seem to make up its mind and kind of rained then stopped, then started again, repeat over and over. 
  • Maybe I'm a noob but I didn't expect French cinemas to show any movies in English but I guess they do!
  • The sun sets pretty late during the summer months so even though we drove back and reached the chateau close to 10pm, the sun was still up for most of the trip (which is great because the chateau area doesn't have any street lights... Or paved streets for that matter). 
Thanks for reading!

Monday, 11 July 2016

France Day Cinq: C'est La Vie

Bonjour! I've just returned from a vacation in France and now for the travel diary because my memory is terrible so I need to recap it all. This was a family vacation to catch the Euro Cup courtesy of my aunt and uncle, without them, this trip wouldn't have happened.

France Day Cinq 
So our fifth day fell on a Monday which ended up being a bit of a bother because I decided to be helpful and drive to Beauville to buy some bread for breakfast only to find that it was shut on Mondays. No croissant = sad Alex. Clearly just being dramatic because actually we still had plenty of food in the Chateau to make a lovely breakfast, just minus the fresh bread.

After our carb-reduced breakfast, we drove an hour and a half to Toulouse to have lunch at Restaurant Emile before the guys ran off for the game. Restaurant Emile is famous for its Cassoulet, which is a piping hot stew of beans, a duck leg, a sausage and pork. It's a dish that originates from the South of France and I think it's really the perfect dish for a cold winter's day. Thankfully (or not), it was proving to be yet another rainy day wherever we went so the dish was well-received. Also because it was DELICIOUS. My favourite bit was the duck leg which was a little crispy too. My uncle's cousin's husband and the boo kept talking about making it their mission to recreate it.

Starters... Bleaugh.
Here's a spork for you

Anyway, the guys then abandoned us ladies for another match at the Toulouse stadium and we decided to take a little stroll down the shopping district which leads me to my best find for the trip... ANDRE! Obvs if you know me, then you'd know that's a shoe shop. There were so many cute shoes but I controlled myself (WHY???? Post holiday regret is strong here) and only got a pair of shoes for myself. But WHAT A FREAKING PAIR THEY ARE. BEHOLD!


Anyway, if you're a more fancy person and want more branded goods, then check out Galleries Lafayette instead. It's a department store carrying a large range of mid to high street fashion (depending on the city probably, the one I went to in Paris was super posh but this one seemed more mid-range I think) French fashion is just so chic and all the clothes were pretty much fabulous which means I didn't buy them because I'm on an austerity drive (WAAAAAAAAAAH!).

Sorry I didn't take any photos of the shops... I was too engrossed in shopping. Here are some photos of me pre-shopping posing about. You can see how wet it was! UGH!

Anyway, to spoil my dinner of roast chicken and rabbit (sob poor bitbit - couldn't bring myself to try it anyway), I had a quick tea break at a dainty cafe called Perlette where I inhaled a banana eclair that was seriously to-die-for.

Spoiled for choice
Not all mine.
 Key learnings: 
  • It's good to check whether places are open before going to them, I think French people like to party or something because I came across this issue of places not being opened quite a few times
  • If you're interested in the Cassoulet, you have to call it and order it in advance because it's slow cooked. 
  • You get to eat Cassoulet with a spork. It's truly a clever invention for lazy people.
  • So if you're keen on more discounts, not sure if this applies to all shops but Andre had a loyalty card system that I could sign up for on the spot to enjoy an additional discount. All I had to do was give them my name, email address and birthday and I became a member. Galleries Lafayette was allowing for membership registrations to enjoy discounts too but required a French address for the registration.
  • Galleries Lafayette is a good place to go to the washroom if you're expecting a long ride home but you have to pay 50 cents (euro) to the toilet attendant.
  • Don't go to France if you're on a diet or you're trying to save money. It will not go well for you.
Thanks for reading!