The Parisian Puzzle: Where to brunch?

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The art of brunching is a Parisian weekend staple. In provence, it is sometimes a struggle to find a quaint café to nurse your hangover or catch up with friends over a cup of coffee and some form of eggs due to many places being closed on a Sunday. In Paris, however, the choices are unlimited – whether you’re plutôt œuf poché or œuf au plat, everyone has their go-to brunch spot.

My personal favourite is Hardware Société around the corner from Sacré-Cœur. Being lazy is what weekends are all about, so this Australian-French café, being a mere 10 minutes walk from my place in Montmartre, is fast becoming my weekend tradition. Each weekend their Instagram account tempts you with their savoury and sweet specials, along with a variety of amazing dishes served by the friendliest staff you will come across in Paris – a real gem in my eyes.

Despite this being my golden spot, it is necessary to leave your comfort zone from time to time. I enlisted the help of my friends Lauren and Beya to share their favourite brunch spots whatever the occasion:

Where to brunch in Paris...

  • With a group of friends:  Pas de Loup in the 11th is one of the only places I know that accepts reservations – I have loved every single dish I have ever tried here so go wild, the world is your oyster. (Side note: their truffle popcorn is truly the bomb)
  • With your significant other: Lauren’s go-to is Buvette Gastrothèque in the 9th. Their signature dish is their croque monsieur, but Lauren swears by their scrambled eggs dish served with ham
  • When you’re hungover: To soak up your hangover, Beya recommends Animal Kitchen in the 10th, famous for their burgers and Beya’s personal favourite – nachos
  • When you’re on a budget: For a classic but inexpensive brunch, head to one of the various addresses of Pain Quotidien across the city with a mix of tartines and pastries
  • When you have a special occasion: On the pricey side, but as their buffet brunch comes with a glass of champagne you can dine in style at Peninsula in the 16th; perhaps not week-in week-out, unless you win the lottery overnight

The best brunch spots in Paris will inevitably continue to grow and change; always have your ear to the ground to be in-the-know about the new must-try resto .. Or if you’re out-of-the-loop like myself, have the best girl friends (who would, if finding the new “it” spot was an olympic sport, take gold, no questions asked).

Pink to make the boys wink?

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Continuing in the theme of battling the January Blues, my friend Lauren decided to throw a January Pinks party this weekend. It was purely coincidence that the date of this soirée coincided with hundreds of marches happening worldwide to fight for women’s rights.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix about the suffragettes who fought for our right to vote. It seemed crazy to me that a century ago, women didn’t have the right to have their say in how their country was run. In that moment, I realised that, all too often, I take for granted the relative freedom I have to live my life how I see fit.

The events of the past year, politically speaking, have been a whirlwind, as more people are turning towards political extremes. I hear or see remarks that shock me and I get the impression that we are going back in time. This is a scary thought, when you reflect on how much progress has been made in terms of equality regardless of gender, race, religion or sexuality. And actually we have so much left to do.

You can’t help but be inspired from seeing images of millions of men and women marching together in solidarity this weekend. This is the kind of inclusive and empowering society that I want to live in, something that I feel has been lacking in recent months. It is our duty to ensure that no person should ever have to experience discrimination because of who they are.

We must all stand together to make sure we are always marching forwards and not backwards. After seeing the images of these marches, it has made me hopeful that this is still possible, regardless of what is happening around us. I want to live in an inclusive, multicultural society, free from hate and injustice. I want to have the same work opportunities as someone else with similar qualifications. I want to wear pink because I want to, not because I have to (with the small exception of parties with a pink dress code).

Battling the January Blues

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The secret to beating the January Blues? I’m no scientist or doctor of course, but an afternoon of indulgence and pampering seems to be key in my book.

For this reason, I self-prescribed myself a trip to L’Atelier de Beauté Anne Sémonin for a well-deserved massage, body scrub and facial session. The spot was recommended to me by a friend, after I mentioned I was looking to spend the remainder of my Christmas money on a relaxing treatment.

Lady Luck was certainly on my side, as I stumbled across a flash sale on Balinea, a website and app that allows you to reserve and pay for your beauty treatments in advance (a God-send for phone-phobic expats like myself). The treatment was down from the usual 150€ to 85€. This paired with an introduce-a-friend promo code*, meant I enjoyed an afternoon of relaxation for only 75€. And given the treatment I received, this was an absolute bargain in my eyes.

After being greeted my two lovely ladies, I made my way through to the treatment room. I laid down on the heated massage table (complete bliss) and we began with the body scrub. This was followed my a hot oil massage that left me so relaxed I could have easily drifted off into the land of nod. I’d had massages before, but this was without a doubt the best I had ever experienced – the right amount of pressure was applied without leaving me sore in the aftermath.

The facial is adapted to your skin type and so after cleansing and toning, I was given a treatment to clean and remove impurities with an exfoliating mask, followed by hot water vapour applied to my face. Next up was a mineral mask to revitalise my skin. As I have a combined skin type this was ideal to cleanse yet hydrate my face. My treatment concluded with a protecting cream and brightening serum to give it a coup d’éclat – as I glanced in the mirror I just had to pause and admire the way my face glowed.

Stepping out of the salon, I felt fresh, cleansed and most importantly, utterly relaxed. The post-festivities comedown combined with my relentless search for work during the past few weeks had taken its toll. While a self-prescribed pampering session will not make the January Blues disappear completely, it helped me feel rejuvenated and ready to continue the battle with (excuse the pun) a fresh face.

* For a 10€ discount on your first Balinea treatment enter this code at sign up: 68CPQUZ

Secrets of a King (or a Queen)

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Fancy being royalty for the day? Me too. Despite the French abolishing the monarchy centuries ago, for one day in January, us fellow mere peasants have the opportunity to do just that with the annual tradition of Galettes de Roi.

January as I know is traditionally a time of detox – following being overindulgent for the last month or so, many will attempt to pursue Dry January, eat more healthily and overcome our fears of the treadmill. Well, if you’re living in France, maybe it’s best to hold that thought, as with the arrival of the Epiphany on January 6th, you won’t be able to resist these sweet treats.

This feast day traditionally celebrates the arrival of the Kings to visit the baby Jesus, and so it is only apt, in the spirit of French equality, to give everybody the chance of becoming a King too. Inside each galette a small object or fève is hidden inside. Whoever finds the fève buried inside their slice (or, let’s face it, slices) of galette, is coronated with a paper crown to become the King or Queen. While not everyone can be born a princess, chances are that every little girl’s dream will come true at least once in their lifetime with this lottery. The odds are with us.

This year, I was lucky enough to taste three delicious galettes at my friend Beya’s house, including for the first time a traditional galette from the South. My luck didn’t extend to finding the fève and be crowned queen for the afternoon, but here’s hoping for next year.

Here is Beya’s insider tips and recipe for her traditional galette:

1. Pâte feuilletée / Puff pastry

“Who has time to make pastry these days?” Beya insisted to me and I totally agree.

Instead, buy your puff pastry or pâte feuilletée from your local bakery – it’s better quality than buying from your supermarket and doesn’t cost the earth

2. Crème d’Amande Filling 

  • Mix together 100g of sugar, 100g of almond powder and 100g of butter
  • Separate two eggs and add the egg yolks to the mix
  • Finish the concoction with a spoonful of rum, followed by a spoonful of orange-blossom water and finally, Beya’s secret ingredient, fresh vanilla

3. Making the Magic Happen 

  • Taking the smallest sheet of pastry, evenly spread the crème d’amande mixture onto it – don’t forget to put the fève in there!
  • Lay the second sheet of pastry on top and pierce a hole in the centre of the galette to allow the inside to cook through
  • Use a circular baking dish to cut of any excess pastry and seal the sides of the galette, before scoring the rim with a knife
  • Finally, glaze with a beaten egg and decorate the exterior to your heart’s content
  • Cover with baking paper and bake for 10 minutes at 200°c, followed by 20 minutes at 170°c

Allow to cool before serving, place a paper crown on top, ask your friends to bring over some bubbles and you’re ready for your royal banquet.

“Why Paris?” : Diary of an Expat

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“Paris is always a good idea” the saying goes. It was and still remains to this day my best idea.

As a Brit living abroad, I’m always asked the same question by people I meet – Why did you choose Paris? This and many other remarks are par for the course – You have an accent, where are you from? Where in England? [followed swiftly by I only know London] and what do you do in Paris? You’re working, really? These questions seem reserved for the expat community and in time, you can shoot back your cookie-cut answers quicker than the baggage handlers calls their next strike.

I had lived in Angers, a small student town in the west of France for a year during my studies. Here I fell in love with the French culture – everyone seemed more laidback here than in London, it was important to take time for meals, drinks, apéro together with family and friends, enjoying the moment. In all I found it a more sociable place.

After a short stint back to the UK to finish my degree, determined it would only be a passing visit, I found myself an internship at a marketing agency in Paris after graduation. I knew only two people – a classmate from university and his girlfriend. This thought would have terrified me today, but funnily enough my 22 year old self was quite carefree in that respect.

It would have been easy enough for me to pack my things up and return to the mothership after my internship ended. Yet, I knew deep down that this was where I wanted to be. I landed on my feet with another job, moved into my own flat in the 18th arrondissement and met some amazing colleagues who I now count among my closest friends. Little did I know it at this time, I was taking my first steps towards calling this place home.

Life can get you down sometimes and one bad event leads to another and yet another. I know as last year was probably my toughest yet.

But then moments like this happen and remind me, why I love calling this city my home. The French like to “flâner” – which means to walk around aimlessly, observing the world around you. When I first moved here,I didn’t understand this notion, I just wanted to get from A to B. I was told by many a Frenchman, that I should slow down and enjoy walking at a comfortable pace (cue the standard You English are always in a rush which is kind of rich for any Parisian to say). Nowadays flâner has become my Sunday afternoon ritual. If I need a pick-me-up I love nothing more than strolling the streets around Montmartre, peering in shop windows without intending to buy anything and basking in the glorious January sunshine. I have been fully-Frenchified.

Of course, this elaborate response would all be too much for the Uber driver on my way home, so I’ll be sticking with my cookie-cut “Ah you know, the French have better working conditions than the UK, so many holidays in comparison…” around him. It’s sure to keep the conversation flowing for the 10 minutes back to my apartment at least.

Beyond the filters

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New year, new me. That’s what we all rattle off every January 1st. Besides our best intentions of keeping our resolutions, for many of us, life has a habit of getting in the way.

My resolution? Begin writing a blog. One obstacle was in my way – where do I start?

My boyfriend and I had discussed this a month ago when I was taking a course in copywriting. I’ve always loved writing and completing this course helped me find my confidence again.

However, be it my inept fear of failure or my quest for perfection, I kept putting it off. The excuses would be endless – I didn’t have any time this week (not so true. Being made redundant a couple of months ago has left me at a loose end), I don’t have any ideas for a blog (again, not exactly true. I have too many daydreams about what I want to do, but struggle to stick with one) I’m not cool enough to have a blog (I’m sticking with that one though).

Yesterday evening as I was struggling to fall asleep, I had a lightbulb moment. I realised that I had already been microblogging for years – from the early days of MySpace, through Facebook and nowadays my favourite hobby (although you won’t find me putting that on my CV) on Instagram. Once I had realised this, the thought of starting my own blog didn’t intimidate me anything.

I, like many other young women I’m sure, am a certified Instagram addict. I spend hours scrolling through my feed and glimpsing into other people’s lives. So… why not combine this with my writing?

And so my blog has been born: The story behind the snaps, I snap then I chat, a glimpse beyond the filters.

We’re now well into the new year so of course my first post is a little on the late side. Let’s just pretend that the craziness of our New Year in the French countryside, the story behind my first post, knocked me out for the past 10 days… it’s half-true anyway.