I don't ski.OK, so technically, yes, I have been skiing once. And I wasn't quite as terrible at it as I would've expected.
But in general, as much as I like the idea of it, skiing is not an activity I actively seek out. So when I told some of my friends I was heading to Annecy for the weekend, and explained that no, I would not actually be skiing, they were all a bit confused.But I'm here to say, that the town's natural beauty and quaint city center is reason enough to visit this town along the French Alps. Whether you're a regular ski bum or a gal like me, who prefers to sip hot chocolate and gaze at the mountains from inside near the closest fire, Annecy and its surrounding towns are a great place to travel if you're trying to escape the concrete jungle of Paris.Annecy is located in the Haute-Savoie region in south-eastern France, and is one of the more popular tourist destinations for both French and non-French travelers, who come in droves of roughly 40 million a year to visit this beautiful area.
Old Town City Center of Annecy
In addition to being known for its prime ski slopes and stunning natural landscape, Haute-Savoie is also known for its many delicious (and pretty smelly) cheeses, such as Reblochon
and the famously deliciously Fondue Savoyard
. And of course, like most regions in France, Haute-Savoie is known for its wine
Among the French, the Haute-Savoie region is also known for being home to quite a prideful group of folks; there is even a tiny sector of the population that promotes the independence of the Savoie region from the rest of France - like these guys
I happened to visit during a weekend with unseasonably warm, sunny weather - not a drop of snow to be found unless you were way up in the mountains. (Needless to say, this was fine by me.)
The sun and warmth made it all the more enjoyable when I went on my morning runs around Lac d'Annecy
, which is both breathtaking in its size and its clarity.
The second largest lake in France, Lake Annecy is known as "Europe's cleanest Lake,"
thanks to strict environmental regulations imposed in the 1960s.
And I'm gonna say that was a good call, because I have never in all my life seen a lake that clear. It was just plain gorgeous.
Me and mes amis enjoying Lac d'Annecy
As much as I love Paris, it was amazing how much more relaxed I felt being outside of the city. It's easy to get distracted by Paris' many monuments, museums and massive crowds, and forget about things like mountains and lakes...and grass...birds chirping...you get the idea.
But in Annecy, it's impossible to ignore.
So even though I didn't get a chance to "hit the slopes" and experience all the alpine glory this region has to offer, I was still able to enjoy all the other wonderful aspects of Annecy and its surrounding towns.
I highly recommend a trip to anyone planning their next visit to France...skier or non-skier.
Chateâu de Chenonceau
has the right idea -- ladies, we should all go out and find ourselves a prince.
Not in an attempt to live out some Disney princess fantasy
and discover eternal love or anything -- but because it would greatly increase our chances of getting to live in a castle.
And after my trip to the Loire Valley
last weekend, I got to see first hand just how amazing that would be.
Last Saturday I faced the cold, wind and drizzle and tagged along on a day trip run by Cityrama
, one of the top French tour companies which offers everything from tours of Paris-by-night
to trips to the southern region of Provence
The tour was essentially an all-day affair, with the bus leaving at 7:15 a.m. and getting us back to Paris around 8 p.m. We managed to squeeze in a visit to three of the regions most well known châteaux: Chateâu Cheverny
, Chateâu Chambord
, and Chateâu de Chenonceau
The tour was extremely well organized, and managed to show us a lot in a short period of time, without us ever feeling too rushed. They even allotted enough time to stop for a lovely lunch along the way at a local restaurant.Below is a video that gives a great overview of our trip, with appearances by yours truly and three other AUP students.
Naturally there is also footage of me talking to the kennel dogs at Chateâu Cheverny
-- leave it to me to ignore the century old castles and go straight for the hounds.
Many thanks to Eric Olander
for providing this awesome content!
The video is also available on the Things to do in Paris Facebook page
If any of you have plans to visit Paris in the near future, I highly recommend it as a great source for discovering some of the more "off the beaten path" activities that Paris has to offer.
Below are some photos I took from all three châteaux, which as you can see are even more beautiful when decked out for the holidays. I ended up taking over 200 pictures, so these are just some highlights.
(Believe me, I'm sparing you all about 20 more photos from the kennel.)
So I know I took a little hiatus from discussing the wonders of Bordeaux -- but come on, it was Thanksgiving
and Paris Vegan Day
! I couldn't just ignore these festive (and delicious) events.
But you all didn't think I would blog about Bordeaux and not
talk about the wine did you?
Mais bien sûr que non!
I'm aware that I'm kind of stating the obvious here, but let me just say to all you wine lovers out there, that Bordeaux is a gorgeous region and produces some of the best red wines I've ever tasted.
I had the chance to visit three châteaux while I was in Bordeaux. Just to clarify, the term "château
" generally means "castle" in French, but in Bordeaux nearly all houses built on the vineyards are called a "château" even if they don't look exactly like Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom
The first château we visited was Château Champion, located in Saint-Emilion. Apparently the Romans planted vineyards back in this area as early as the 2nd century. (And by "apparently" I mean "according to Wikipedia." But I consider them to be a relatively reliable source, so I'm going to assume this is somewhat true.) We tasted two different wines from this vineyard -- a 2007 Chateau Champion, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc,) and a 2008 Chateau Vieux Grand Faurie, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc.)My favorite of the two, which was a bit lighter but still flavorful, was the 2007, and I ended up taking a bottle back to Paris with me to enjoy with friends. I tend to prefer white wine, but I am attempting to expand my taste for red -- and I figured Bordeaux was a great place to start!I also had the chance to stop by Chateau Segonzac, a
château which dates back to the late 19th century. We were greeted by our very friendly host Thomas, who operates the vineyard with his wife Charlotte Herter-Marmet (her father bought the château back in 1990 -- sigh...I wish my dad would buy me a vineyard...)
Check out the video below for a quick glimpse at our guided wine tasting experience at Chateau Segonzac. (video courtesy of Clayton Englar -- OK, I guess this makes up for him not buying me a vineyard...sort of.)
Our third and final stop on our wine tour of Bordeaux was at Chateau Rousselle
, which was first constructed all the way back in 1636. The vineyard is located west of Bordeaux, not too far from the Gironde
This vineyard produces predominantly Merlot wines, but also produces Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon on its 23 hectare vineyard (about 55 acres).
The wines we tasted here were a bit bolder and heavier -- not exactly my cup of tea (or glass of wine...) but it was enjoyable to taste them nonetheless.
Honestly, I think the highlight of this château for me were the vats named after the Seven Dwarfs
(yes, as in the seven short men who lived with Snow White -- that always kinda weirded me out, but I still thought this was a super cute idea nonetheless.)
Check out the slideshow below for photos from all three vineyards, as well as a few photos from the town of Saint-Emilion. If you're looking to plan a trip to Bordeaux, I would highly recommend visiting in the fall -- the foliage is just breathtaking!
This pretty much sums it up
I admittedly have a massive sweet tooth -- I've seriously contemplated getting hypnosis to kill my chocolate addiction.
But then I figured, life is too short, and in no way worth living without the occasional (or daily) Milky Way.
My recent obsession as of late are French macarons
(not to be confused with macaroons
, which are typically made with coconut and are a staple in most Jewish families during Passover
; not that they aren't delicious as well.)
My current macaron obsession is Pierre Hermé
, a gourmet macaron and chocolate shop which has been in Paris since 2001. I am actually waiting for the prime moment to dedicate myself to writing a blog post worthy of this brand -- so stayed tuned for that.
In the meantime, I wanted to tempt your taste-buds with two beautiful shops I discovered on my recent trip to Bordeaux:
M le Macaron:
As I was
walking down Rue des Remparts
, a cute street in the center of Bordeaux's old city full of tea rooms and gift shops, I noticed this little store called M le Macaron
(38, rue des remparts, 33000 Bordeaux
In addition to the funky window displays, I couldn't resist the vibrant assortment of colors and macaron flavors on display.
I had to go in.
I wanted to branch out from the standard flavors you can find in any typical French boulangerie, and take this opportunity to explore some of the unique flavors the shop had to offer.
If my memory serves me correctly, I'm pretty sure I tasted the following:
Adorable window display at M le Macaron
- Litchi Gingembre
- Lavande Pêche
I believe I also tried one they were featuring for fall, which was a mix of apple and hazelnut -- in any event, they were all delicious.
M le Macaron also offers a variety of savory macarons, including pretty adventurous flavors, such as Petit-Pois Chèvre Menthe
(peas, goat cheese and mint) and Volaille Fumée Moutarde
(smoked-chicken and mustard).
I could not make these things up if I tried.
I will admit: I wasn't crazy about the texture of these macarons. They were a bit softer, smaller and more crumbly than the ones I'm used to (aka Pierre Hermé
-- yes, I know, I'm a snob.) But what they lacked in texture, they completely made up for in color, taste and originality.
It's definitely worth stopping by M le Macaron if a) you like trying original and bold flavors b) you like macarons and c) well, if you are ever in Bordeaux.
Chocolaterie Biscuiterie Larnicol MOF
Chocolaterie Biscuiterie Larnicol MOF:
Another awesome find for anyone who loves window shopping and chocolate was Chocolaterie Biscuiterie Larnicol MOF
, located right at the Place de la Comédie
This was one of those stores that almost does itself a disservice, as its products look practically too beautiful to eat. Luckily, in addition to the works of art on display, this store also sells traditional chocolates
that you can pick yourself and pay for by the kilo.
As you can see from the sideshow below, this store offers everything from adorable chocolate cats and ladybugs to an edible electric guitar. They also sell macarons
, but stick to more traditional flavors like chocolate, coffee and pistachio.
I spent about five full minutes snapping pictures, until the woman in the store informed me that customers were only allowed two photos each. Oops.
I did also manage to do some sampling (purely for the sake of research). To be honest, I wasn't blown away by anything I tried. Don't get me wrong, every piece of chocolate I had was tasty -- but nothing I tried really mirrored the pizazz that was on display.
So while I would still recommend taking a trip to Larnicol if you're ever in Bordeaux, you don't really need to venture past the window displays.
Unless of course you're willing to shell out 25€ for a chocolate cow -- then I think it would be totally worth it.
Check out the sideshow below for more photos -- for those of you who might be trying to shed some pounds before the holidays, I would avert your eyes.
Place du Parlement, Bordeaux
The other weekend I traveled to Bordeaux
, a region in the southwest of France that is internationally renowned for its wines.
As I was browsing through the hundreds of photos I took on this trip, I realized that there was just too much to squeeze into one post.
So my plan is to take a quick break from blogging about Paris, and explore another beautiful city in France (there are just so many!)
I could start off blogging about the obvious: vineyards and wine.
But instead I want to begin with the actual city of Bordeaux.
When I arrived in Bordeaux, it felt like a breath of fresh air. I was so used to constantly maneuvering my way through the crowds, lines and confusing underground metro corridors of Paris, that it made Bordeaux seem almost quaint, even though it is a legitimate city.
It's important to keep in mind that there is a massive disparity in population size between Paris and all other major cities in France. Even Marseille
, which has the second largest population in France
, is less than half the size of Paris.
Place de la Victoire, Bordeaux
population only hovers around 230,000
, (tiny by U.S. standards), but the city remains one of the top ten largest cities in France by population. Note: Online data varies between ranking Bordeaux the 7th and 8th largest city in France. One of my cab drivers claimed it was the 6th largest -- wishful thinking dude.To put the size of the city in perspective, I was pretty much able to make my way around the centre-ville within a day or two of being there, and quickly located an amazing running route along the Garonne river.
Paris by Night -- Stunning! (Photo by A. Langer)
Walking around Bordeaux at night is also a sight to be seen.
In my opinion, France on the whole has
completely nailed it when it comes to lighting their cities after dark.
Whether it's decking out a town for the winter holidays, or just a regular evening strolling around the city center, when I've visited cities like Paris, Montpellier
, I am always stunned by the visions of cathedrals, theatres and other century-old structures glowing at night.Below are some more photos of Bordeaux by night -- many thanks to Clayton Englar for providing some of the content.Keep an eye out for more fun photos and facts from Bordeaux wine country, local macaroon shops and more!