Paris Winter Weekend

_MG_0526My sister and I both have a bit of a city crush on Paris. Claire for the many galleries; me for the gorgeous food. So when we booked a winter weekend there in February, we knew we would have to make plenty of time for both, as well as sightseeing and general hanging out.

Here is what we got up to. If you have any tips for my next trip please share them.

_MG_0250We stayed in Monmartre, so our first stop after dropping off our bags at the hostel was a walk up to Sacre-Coeur, the famous basilica of Monmartre. Claire is shielding her eyes from the sun, which was a lovely surprise after leaving a grey London that morning.

_MG_0284_MG_0297We paid to go up in to the dome and the views were spectacular. I must have taken hundreds of photos of the Eifel Tower in the distance, much to Claire’s dismay as she can’t stand heights and was edging her way around the dome sticking as close to the building as possible. I will admit, it is a long way up, but even Claire admitted once safely on solid ground, it is well worth doing.

_MG_0256 We then wandered around, fantasizing about what it would be like to live as a Parisian in a lovely apartment like the one above, overlooked only by the basilica…..

Our next stop was the Pompidou Centre, which is a surprising building that kind of looks like a swimming pool with lots of tunnel slides around the outside. On the inside you walk into a huge atrium, flanked by six floors of galleries and cultural spaces. There is a library, cinema and cafe, among exhibition spaces and public performance areas. 20150405 March iphone Bristol 022The highlight for me was the Jeff Koons: A Retrospective exhibition. The huge collection of works from Koons was fascinating and impressive. I loved the balloon dog, pictured. Claire had hoped to see the modern art collection which has works from Matisse (her favourite artist) Picasso and Duchamp to name a few. However, when we got there we found that this particular gallery was closed for refurbishment. Noooo! This is not the first time Claire has been caught out by refurbishment . We also travelled to Antwerp last year, mainly to see MOMU, the famous fashion museum where works from the Antwerp 6 designers are displayed, only to find out that was closed in between exhibitions.

Although it wasn’t all bad, we spent the next day in Musee Picasso, a lovely sleek and modern gallery that is hugely popular. We definitely recommend booking in advance as you skip the long queues, we pretty much walked straight in._MG_0356 _MG_0371Last time I was in Paris we discovered this company, Fat Tyre, running bike tours of Paris. I had been on the day tour, which was brilliant, and so this time we opted for a night tour which included a boat ride on the river Seine. After meeting and picking up our nice comfy bikes, we cycled off to see all the main tourist spots at night, Notre Dame, the latin quarter and the Louvre before getting on a boat and being whisked down the river while drinking wine and watching the lights go by.

_MG_0445 _MG_0475 _MG_0482 _MG_0498I would highly recommend these tours, just rug up if you’re doing the night tour in winter. It was freezing!

We spent our last day wandering around the Notre Dame. It was so beautiful inside, and I got to practice my night-time photography.

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_MG_0677This bridge is nicknamed the “Love Lock bridge” and it is heaving with the weight of millions of padlocks. A romantic tradition or thoughtless vandalism, it definitely is a beautiful site. Notre Dame rises in the distance and when we were there we were serenaded by an enthusiastic accordion player.

As you already know, we did eat our fair share of macarons on this trip. We also had our first savoury crepes, or galletes as I now know they’re called.

20150405 March iphone Bristol 027 20150405 March iphone Bristol 046Finally after a weekend of indulgence, I thought I would go for a healthy option and have a salad. Luckily this salad came with a whole round of camembert.. mmmm…

I can’t wait to go back to Paris, I have vowed that the next time I go it will be in summer. My next must see will be the Palace of Versailles.

7. Make French Macarons

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Pretty professional right?

Rather than chocolate for Easter, my sister booked us in to a beginner macaron making course at Super Cute Macarons. The South London cafe and cookery school is run by Singapore-born, Loretta Liu. Liu supplies macarons to high-end London department store, Harvey Nicols, so we knew we would be in for something special.

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We arrived to the little classroom and took our places along with 14 others at our work stations and after a few short words of wisdom from Liu, “Macarons are very temperamental”, “You will need to practice, practice, practice”, suitably intimidated, we began beating our egg whites. We were using the French meringue method, which relies heavily on getting the right stiffness in the egg whites, and then being careful not to beat all this air out when folding in the dry ingredients.

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This is where the practice comes in. It takes a lot of trial and error to understand what works and what doesn’t. Luckily we had Liu’s professional eye to help us check on the beaten eggs and stop us before we over mixed and lost all the “bubbles in our bath”. Liu likened the precious and all so important air bubbles in the meringue mix to bubbles in a bath. If you churn them up too much, they’ll be gone, and nothing you can do will revive them.

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She also advised you must respect and compromise with your oven, as you do your partner. How well you know your oven, will determine how well your macarons turn out. So, you have to accept your ovens quirks and work with them, not against them. Liu has a very direct way of getting her point across. The point being that, for aomething with just three ingredients, egg white, sugar and ground almonds, there is a lot that can go wrong.

But for our first attempts, everyone took home something pretty and edible. Claire and I filled our macaron shells with chocolate ganache, lemon curd and raspberry compĂ´te. Oh and we also experimented with peanut butter and soft feta cheese that we had in the fridge, both were surprisingly good.

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I will definitely be trying again (and again, and again….) at home, I still dream about the rose one I had in Paris.