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Montpellier TourSometimes you visit a place and you aren’t immediately stuck with what’s so great about it. That’s how I initially felt about Montpellier. It took me a couple visits to really appreciate it. My first visit was just a day passing through on a road trip and everyone was tired and so it fell flat. We entered from a less “exciting” road, we meandered what seemed like forever in the middle of nowhere and finally we got there and we were all miserable. Thankfully I’ve come around since then but perhaps only because one of my sisters loves it so much so I knew it needed a second chance and besides it has those warm southerly tones going for it so… that also helps.

Earlier this year I was wandering the city and it was a little cloudy and cool and I’d shopped, I’d eaten, I’d visited a few galleries and I wasn’t quite sure what to do next. Normally I feel like I can figure it out on my own but being that I had this little chip on my shoulder, it’s safe to say I wasn’t trying very hard. I stopped in at the tourist info and discovered they had a tour on their cultural centre tour that would be departing shortly for a mere 7€. 

I’m so glad I decided to jump on board. The tour comprised of passing through a “hôtel particulier” courtyard (homes of the upper class from previous eras,) climbing the triumphal arc and descending underground into a medieval Jewish mikveh (womens baths) discovered under a former home in the Jewish quarter. The guide did such a wonderful job of mixing in details about the importance of medical studies in the city, which is still home to one of the (if not THE) largest and oldest anatomy collections in the world as well as the religious wars in the region as this was one of the protestant strongholds in France. I was so impressed and it really brought the city to life. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

Couple a good experience with the inexpensive, flavour-packed wines of the Languedoc region available everywhere, a tasty meal at Ma Première Cantine and since then I seem to enjoy the region more and more. Most recently we even toured around a little through wine country (North Americans will recognize Paul Mas vineyards, among others, along the roads if you decide to tour the region) for a friends birthday celebration complete with live music on site one evening (with one of the singers who toured with the Gipsy Kings who was a friend of the birthday boy) and lots of pétanque, fresh mussels, and of course wine. Clearly my opinions have come around.

To book a similar tour check out the “cultural” section on the Montpellier Tourism website located here.  Prices start at 7€.
We were also fortunate on our recent détour in Montagnac (less than an hour from Montpellier) to catch an open spot at the airbnb “Hôtel de la Rat” a hôtel particulier that was simply stunning.Montpellier StreetsMontpellier Hotel particuliermontpellier tourMontpellier Streetsmikveh

languedoc roadtripMuscles BBQMuscle BBQMontagnac musiclive music languedoc wineryVOP_4504airbnb montagnac hotel de la rat

Nice RivieraI came to France because of a dream, a dream that really set root in 2011 and not long after I quit my job and moved to the south of France. It was a whirlwind of some kind of chutzpah and faith I guess, knowing that something was waiting for me over here. I figured I didn’t learn French for nothing! Having not used the language for 12 years I perhaps underestimated how much effort it would take and how much courage would have to go before anxiety to make it all happen or no words would come bumbling out but eventually I got to where I am now. However those details worked out, I ended up in Arles before eventually settling in to the Riviera in 2012. It feels almost shameful to admit that probably unlike most people my first reaction to Nice was negative. I’d gone from sleepy Provence to what felt more like the California of France (which I guess it kind of is…) and I wasn’t sure about this new place I’d be moving. Thankfully this initial reaction didn’t last and before long I fell in love with the golden glowing light that filtered through the clouds, incomparable al fresco dining and views that no photo could ever do justice to from my bedroom window.

When I left, I knew I’d be back. I still dream of friends coming to visit and driving them along the stunning and terrifying winding roads where the alps meet the coast.  I don’t think you ever could have told me I’d have to wait 3 years before I’d get the chance to go back but I jumped on the opportunity so quickly even if it was just a couple days before heading off to Avignon and eventually Montpellier. Naturally, I wanted to make sure my favourite bakery was still serving pain des moissons, sit on the pebble beach in the Baie des Anges and breath in the warm southerly air and of course test out gelato all over again because I “couldn’t remember” which I liked most.

Walking through the Park of Mont Boron was probably the best I’ve ever experienced as the sun was setting and all the fountains and the coast were magically lit up for us in a beautiful display. I also walked from the hotel over to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas one morning and I couldn’t believe I’d never done it before. Not only was it a tranquil spot with few tourists when I visited but it so happened to be during service. The inside was spectacular (though photos are not allowed) and I shouldn’t be surprised as it was, after all, funded by Tsar Nicholas II after the French Riviera became a tourism hot spot for Russian Nobility in the 19th century. The best part however was the playing of the bells at the end of the service which went on for several minutes. If you go to Nice, I highly recommend this detour and if you can time it well all the better. It may be a little out of the way but you won’t regret it. Once you get back to the old city you can reward yourself for the walk with a scoop or two from  Oui, Jelato. I’ve confirmed it’s my favourite. While Fenocchio’s has the charm of being in several great locations inside the heart of old town, the flavours and Oui, Jelato just have that little something extra. 

It was a short visit so many things weren’t able to make the list this time around but I like to think it just means I’ll have to go back even sooner to go see my other favourite places.  

Riviera Cap de NicePromenade du PaillonBaie Des AngesBaie Des AngesBlockheadCap de NiceParc du Mont BoronParc du Mont BoronBaie Des Anges NiceParc du mont Boron

Parc du mont BoronBaie des AngesRussian Orthodox Church NiceRiviera bicycle

Atelier Anthologie Canvas Backdrop DIY
As you may well know, upon moving to France full time, I also decided to take the photography business with me (now called Atelier Anthologie) Having started out in art school, and painting being part of my required courses, I thought the idea of making my own painted backdrops would be a fun DIY. What better time than summer to get outside and get messy! Please bare in mind that any texture under your canvas is likely to show through and you can either fight against it or work with it… up to you. I’m just working with it!

Materials I used:
Matte white house paint
Red, Blue and Yellow Primaries in Satin (all they had – matte is better)
Black Satin (again all they had – matte is better)
1 sponge
1 roller with extendable handle
A garden hose
A painters plastic drop cloth
A large piece of Canvas (mine is 2.5 x 3.5 meters)
lots of water

Let’s get started!

To start out I put my canvas on top of the plastic and then I sprayed it with a mist from the hose. Do this to help reduce some of the creases in your fabric and also to help it shrink just a little before you put the paint on, this is one of those “art school top tips”

Atelier Anthologie Canvas Backdrop DIYAtelier Anthologie Canvas Backdrop DIY

While you leave this to dry a little (not entirely, just a little – you don’t want a soaked canvas or the paint just won’t stick) you’ll have a chance to mix your paints. I’ve worked with paints lots so I just bought primaries and started mixing and once I had the colour I wanted I added approximately an equal amount of water to it, mixed it thoroughly before applying – this allows it to go further so you aren’t wasting so much paint and it’ll keep your canvas a little more wet so it’s easier to blend. If you’re not experienced with colour blending just buy premixed so you don’t end up with a muddy mess. 

Atelier Anthologie Canvas Backdrop DIY

*Start the base with your lighter colour.*

Atelier Anthologie Canvas Backdrop DIY

Once I had the lighter colour on I started around the edges with the darker tone.

Atelier Anthologie Canvas Backdrop DIY

After I was all the way around I started working it into the middle with a sponge. I find large sweeping motions are the nicest but you’ll find your groove. Note you’re going to be barefoot on your canvas, so be careful what paint is on your feet or it’ll spread!

Atelier Anthologie Canvas Backdrop DIY

At that point I decided I wanted a little more so I had a nearly empty roller and just sort of worked into the centre a little more to ease the workload on my shoulders from all the sponge blending.

Atelier Anthologie Canvas Backdrop DIY

Now just go, go, go with your sponge until you have the desired effect and leave it to dry! Voila! New canvas backdrop.

Atelier Anthologie Canvas Backdrop DIY

  • June 23, 2016 - 22:26

    elements - Sounds like a fun way to spend a sunny day. I look forward to seeing your first portraits shot with this background. How do you plan to hang it etc.?ReplyCancel

    • June 23, 2016 - 22:34

      Christina - The present space it’s likely to end up in is still under a bit of construction but there’s talk about putting something in the ceiling but I’m more tempted to just get a stand system so I can easily move it around if need be to catch the lightReplyCancel

chateau de fontainebleau

I am so fortunate. I move halfway across the world and yet again, one of my best friends has come to visit and not just her but her husband and daughter too! As luck would have it we were expecting workmen to visit just days before their arrival to replace the doors and windows after being broken into back in January. Naturally, at their arrival the house was feeling a bit upside down and under a layer of plaster but if there’s one thing you don’t have to worry about with close friends, it’s the state of house, and for this, I am very thankful!

I wasn’t quite sure how the week would turn out or what we would do… I worry sometimes that the country life won’t be for everyone and they might feel like they’re missing out on the quintessential “Paris experience.”  Couple the fact that there was a gas strike (I stopped at 3 gas stations before finding any to fill up on my way to the airport!) and soon to be train strike… It was looking like this could potentially be disastrous and that we’d be forced to stay in the country but then there was the rain so maybe we’d all just suffer from cabin fever in the house… Of course this was all unfounded worry and it turned out just fine. We encountered a little rain, a lot of humidity and even some sun! In fact I think we had some great moments and experiences that most would miss on their trip to France. We toured around the Château de Fontainebleau as well as the forêt and they got to see the great rock formations that even photos never quite do justice to. There was the obligatory ride on the carousel, sailing boats in the jardin de Luxembourg, lots of picnicking, making croque madames, eating of old-timey apple beignets and the epitome of French culture – hunting, horse and dog show (chasse a courre) complete with horn competition. The song is still a little stuck in my head even now… and I’m sure they would agree! It was a great week and I’m so glad they were able to come. I might be far away but it’s nice to know that a little pond won’t stop friends from visiting.

la halle milly la foretfirst croissant milly la foretforet de fontainebleauforet de fontainebleaubarbizoncroque madameschateau de fontainebleauchateau de fontainebleauchateau de fontainebleauchateau de fontainebleauchateau de fontainebleaugare de lyonnotre dame de parisjardin de luxembourgjoie jardin de luxembourgjardin de luxembourg voiliercarousel fontainebeaucarousel fontainebeau

samois sur seinechateau de fontainebleaubeignetschasse a courregrand parquet fontainebleaugrand parquet de fontainebleaugrand parquet fontainebleaugrand parquet fontainebleaupolo grand parquet fontainebleauchasse a courrechasse a courre fontainebleau

  • June 10, 2016 - 19:14

    Susan - Great photos! Especially love the kitchen shot of the 3 cooks and Gracie reading the mapReplyCancel

    • June 12, 2016 - 19:23

      Christina - It was all hands on deck. Sadly not everyone was photographed but I think it’s safe to say we’re all fans of the croque madame and it’s a great weekend lunchReplyCancel

  • June 11, 2016 - 20:14

    Carolyn - You are the best photographer!!!ReplyCancel

    • June 12, 2016 - 19:20

      Christina - Thanks Carolyn!ReplyCancel

FFF French Food FridayI’ve got a full bookcase about french life, memoirs and cooking and here I am living in France and trying to navigate my what and my why’s in life. Newly unemployed (don’t worry I’m the one that chose to leave) I’m at a point where I’m untethered and I can choose a new path but while I figure out the future trajectory, why not indulge in a little of the life I’m presently living? Why not share? 

I give you – French Fridays. Today is French (Food) Friday to be precise!

Legumes have never been my most favourite food group. I’ve tried and I admit, they’re growing on me, but it’s still an occasional struggle so seeing this recipe leap off the page of my Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes cookbook was a bit of shock but one I decided I could take on. 

Finding duck confit outside of France can be a little expensive so this is definitely one to try when you book your airbnb if you come because it’s quite simple!

Unfortunately it’s not posted on his website so to avoid copyright infringement I’ll give you the “french” version of the recipe, “au pif!” as they say, meaning, by the nose.

Before you do anything preheat your oven to 400F.

It wasn’t too much more than a mirepoix* cooked down before adding a small peeled waxy potato cut into a couple large pieces, a bouquet garni*, French Puy Lentils and just covered with chicken stock. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down and cover for 40 minutes just stirring a couple times. Take your duck from the jar and blot away excess fat from the confit, place pieces on a pan in the oven (I put mine on a rack so the extra fat drips away) for 25-30 minutes until the skin becomes crispy. Just before putting it all together mash up the potato on the sides of the lentil pot, salt, pepper and add a dash of red wine vinegar and olive oil. Stir it up and then dish out. Before adding the duck stir in a little cream or crème fraîche and place your piece of crispy duck on top and pour yourself a nice glass of wine. No French meal should be without! Bon Appétit! 

If you have a lentil recipe you’d like to share please leave it in the comments – French or not!

 

*Mirepoix = diced carrot, onion and celery
*Bouquet Garni = thyme, bay leaf, parsley wrapped with a piece of leek and tied up