Thursday, 30 January 2014

Surrealist Art and Vin Rouge

I've been in Paris for over 2 weeks now. How did that happen?! Paris isn't just home to some of the best macaroons, pastries and clothes shops, it's also home to some of the best art galleries in the world, with works by hundreds of world-famous painters, sculptors, architects, the list is infinite. When you need a little dose of Parisian culture, art galleries are the perfect place to wander round, soak up the sophistication, and shelter from the rain!

I absolutely love art and galleries - the best thing is that for under-25s you can get in completely free of charge! I'm doing a literature module on Modernism but as part of this we are encouraged to look at the art which inspired, and was inspired by, these writers. So yesterday morning, drizzly and grey as it was (oh Paris, come on and show me some sun rays!), I grabbed my brolly and shimmied on down to the Pompidou Centre again to meet my classmates to check out the 'Le Surréalisme et L'objet' exhibition.

The views from the top of the Pomp are incredible, it's just a shame about the weather here because right in the distance hidden behind the raindrops is the Eiffel Tower! I'm definitely coming back on a brighter day because you can see all the rooftops of Paris from up here and all the way along to the Sacre Coeur. 

I'm undecided about the outside of the Pompidou Centre, but not about the inside. It's airy and arty and it has a great buzzy feeling inside. It's probably the place I've been in most so far, because it's so inviting (and the wi-fi is free).

Inside the surrealism exhibition. The lighting is made up of highlights and lowlights, and the use of words projected on the floor and shadows I thought were really interesting.

If I learnt one thing, the surrealist art movement involved lots and lots of mannequins. Kinda weird, but great to photograph! 

The shadow effect behind this piece was really cool. Livvy seemed more interested in the fox.

I remember seeing this Salvador Dali piece in an artbook just the day before (you can't easily forget a lobster telephone) so I got rather excited when I spotted it inside the exhibit. He always does some super weird stuff; I can't wait till I go to the Dali Museum, where I'm headed next week!

The surrealism exhibit is a temporary one that runs until the 3rd of March, but there is a permanent collection too which is well worth a look (I actually preferred te permanent stuff because the surrealism was just a bit too surreal for me!)

I didn't have chance to do a thorough inspection which is a shame, but I'll be back on another rainy day. Here are some of the bits from the main collection that caught my eye.


My absolute fave thing in the whole gallery was this crazy cave that you can go inside and explore. Livvy and I spent ages in here taking pictures and jumping from platform to platform, it was such an awesome surprise! 

Soon after this we were arted and jumped out, so we headed to a bakery for pastries and hot chocolates to recharge our batteries. The rest of the afternoon was spent dodging the rain by hopping in and out French bookshops and a trip to Shalespeare and Co. when we realised we hadn't paid a visit yet, and when we were fed up of not being able to read any of the French books.

In my opinion there was only one way to finish off our day of sophisticated arty/bookyness, and that was with a glass of vin rouge in our beloved Marais district. 

We found a little shabby chic brasserie and tucked ourselves away in the corner for more gossiping and people watching.

I have a big day ahead of me today as I finally move in to my very own French flat. I'm not looking forward to the packing or the moving but once I am there I can finally properly unpack my suitcase. I can't wait to show you round when I'm there. Wish me luck!

Monday, 27 January 2014

L'as Du Fallafel

Street food is amazing. The variety of stuff you can get your hands on is fantastic, from hotdogs, to burgers, crepes, nuts, flatbreads, the lot, and it's generally not too expensive either. Everything just seems to taste better in the open air out of paper wrapping. Today's post is all about one kind of street food in particular that is becoming more and more popular: fallafel. It might have had a reputation as hippie-food or strictly vegetarian cuisine before, but thankfully that image is slowly being shed because fallafel has been a lot more trendy in London recently. But according to my sources, Paris is head and shoulders above in the fallafel department. 

Fallafel, or falafel, for those who might be unsure about what it is exactly (I know I didn't have a clue), comes from the Middle-East. It's made of ground-up chickpeas, deep-fried and served with humous and crunchy salad in pita bread, and it is deee-liscious.

Back in November, my coursemates and I were brought to Paris for the day on a visit (as you do) and for lunch we were told that we would be treated to fallafel from the place that does the best fallafel in Paris: L'as Du Fallafel.

It was so good that my boyfriend Jules and I had to return for another fix. Hidden down this beautiful little side street called Rue des Rosiers, just around the corner from the Pompidou Centre in the 4th arrondissement, L'as Du Fallafel draws in big crowds considering it is such a little place.

There is even a cordon outside and a man waiting to take your order because of the amount of people who come to eat here. You go up to him and place your order, then you get a ticket and wait for your food to be made up in front of you behind the window, kind of Starbucks-style. 

We both went for the Fallafel Special, which is their signature dish. For €5.50 you get about 5 fallafels, aubergine (or eggplant, which is my absolute favourite!), nestled on top of a load of salad and veggies, all topped with the most delicious humous, in a pita bread. Heavenly. 

Just grab a fork and a napkin, huddle yourself away in one of the street's many recesses and you're ready to dig in! 

While you eat you can gaze at all the  beautiful street art along the rue and people watch till your heart's content. It is such an attractive and vibrant street! Another reason why I love the Marais district. 

We went at about 4:30pm so it was less busy than when we came in November, so one thing that I would say is if it is during peak lunch time hours be prepared for a queue or a bit of a wait... But it is so worth it! Another thing I would advise is go when you are hungry. These are not small portions!

After we had eaten, the drizzle from earlier on had well and truly gone away, so we went to stretch our legs and walk off our late lunch. 

The brilliant thing is that it is so central, because Notre Dame is just 5-minutes' walk away! A perfect afternoon of good food, good sightseeing, and good company. I will be back to L'as Du Fallafel as soon as I can; I think I am going to try to bring anyone who visits me to get food there to try and recruit more fallafel fans! 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Hipster Cats Sweater

Last time I blogged I told you about the fantastic afternoon I spent with my housemate in the Marais. It was seriously awesome, so good in fact that I would quite happily fill another blog post with photos I took of things I thought were interesting or weird and generally gushing about my day, but I'll save it for my next Skype victim.

However, I do want to show you what I bought at one of the vintage shops that way on. Get ready for the nineties-est, hipster-iest, cosy, catsy, comfy jumper you e'er did see.

I hadn't had one of those love at first sight moments with a piece of clothing for all too long, and then bam, boom, this little beauty wandered in to my vision and swept me off my feet. 

Just look at the cats! I've called this my cat hipster sweater because the cats are actually the hipsters (I have to confess, but don't tell anyone, I'm still not 100% sure what a hipster actually is...) but I reckon if there was a hipster cat it would look like one of these fellas. 

Then just when I thought I couldn't love it any more, I went ahead and turned it over to pull it over my head and try it on...  just you check this out...

Cats' bottoms! Isn't it just so brilliant?! I hadn't even got out of the shop and the girl behind me in the queue was praising my geeky jumper choices (I actually think she might have been eyeing it up out of the corner of her eye hoping I would decide against buying it and abandon it so she could move in... But I could not let this one go! For €25 this was the ultimate steal.

The purple is great for a bit of a colour pop. This will look the business with blue jeans and some boots/vans/trainers of any creed for a casj day at uni look. Also, it sort of reminds me of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air but I can't put my finger on why..!

I will be back to the Pompidou Centre for a trip this week so I might have to pop back in to have a quick peek inside. It would be rude not to call in! I hope to post soon about some more fantastique vintage shop finds.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Vintage Shops and Macaroons in The Marais

I can't quite believe it, but I had my first class of the semester this morning. How did that come round so fast?! I opened the curtains to a very grey drizzly Paris, so I put on my trusty ankle boots and scooped up my butterfly brolly finished off a quick coffee and made a dash for the train. I really have thrown myself in head-first with the Paris Metro, but I have to say I've taken to it like a duck to water. It's dead easy to use and doesn't cost too much at all. Plus, all the lines are connected and you can get pretty close to where you need to be using just one ticket. Pretty convenient, but I digress.

So I arrived in Montparnasse (5 minutes late I admit, but I did well navigating in rush hour for the first time on my own I think). We share a building with the American Columbia University but only have one corridor and seminar room in the entire building, which is actually good because it's pretty difficult to get lost once you're inside. 

I had a successful first class and checked the notice board for any exciting updates. There are lots of visits planned for us students which I am so excited for! I'm down to do an Art History module and our first visit is to the Rodin gallery. Ahh, the Paris life.

Afterwards I made my way back to my little flat to have a spot of lunch and reconvene with my housemate, Livvy. We had agreed to have a full on exploration of the Marais district before going our separate Parisian ways, so we shrugged our shoulders at the pleut (that's Francais for rain) and headed off in search of adventure and sweet treats.

We had an absolutely wonderful afternoon of puddle jumping, practising our French on unsuspecting shop assistants, and running in and out of vintage shops crammed from floor to ceiling with leather satchels, doc martens, waistcoats, denim jackets and more fur coats than you could shake a stick at. I love the smell of shops like that; it's the deep leathery musky smell of bargains.

We chattered away to one another and must have walked for absolutely ages. It was only when we passed this delicious hop window that we realised two things: firstly, we were hungry, and secondly, we had been here almost a week and hadn't had a macaroon yet!

How delicious does everything look? I must make it my mission to try one of everything before I leave the city. 

So many gorgeous looking pastries and sticky buns. Even the bread here is beautiful.

Nevertheless, there is only one thing we were interested in...

Pistachio macaroons! And goodly-sized ones too. These ones were €1.40 and are slightly larger than your average-sized macaroon, always a good thing in my opinion! A bargain for a beautiful patisserie in the centre of Paris. 

Livvy is absolutely mad for them, and I'm so glad she has alerted me to their existence, as they are rather wonderful. She had almost eaten hers before I got a pic of her! They're soft, gooey, and elegant, and the perfect afternoon treat for an afternoon shopping trip in Paris. 

Heavenly. Happy with our choice of treat and with a couple of cheeky vintage purchases in hand, we meandered our way back north to our flat via the Pompidou Centre.

After getting distracted by a French bookshop and getting upset that we couldn't read any of the books because they were in French, we got ever so slightly lost. But then we wandered past what we've been calling the Marais' 'fake Arc de Triomphe'. It's a big arc in the middle of a big built-up area which looks rather interesting! If you get a bit lost (which I am prone to doing) and you see this then your heart does a little jump because it means you're close to home. 

I absolutely loved my afternoon of freedom, and it felt like my first proper taste of Parisian life since arriving. I'm very nearly almost done with my Winter essays, and soon as I am I will be back out with my camera exploring once more. I just have to choose which arrondissement is next on my hit list...

Bonjour Paris!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Salut Paris!

So I've done it, I've finally made the big move to Paris! Bright and early on Tuesday morning I set off on the train to London St Pancras, then my friend Livvy and I caught the Eurostar to the Gare du Nord. It was a little bit scary and great deal exhausting (I have 2 huge bruises on my calves, thank you very much hold-all) but we arrived safe and sound and on time!

I don't think I'm alone in saying it's always a culture shock when I touch down in a new country. Weigh-laid with kilos of bags in mass, Livvy and I pulled and tugged our suitcases across the busiest road I've seen in a long while to a little cafe, where we were to meet our new landlord. Of course we forgot to look left instead of right and nearly got squashed in the first 15 minutes. After taking 5 to catch our breath we met our lovely landlord who showed us to our beautiful little flat in the Marais district; he lugged a pile of our luggage the whole way there, and then up the 3 flights of stairs to our flat, bless him! Definitely the star of the day.

Just off the Rue de Saint Martin Faubourg, the flat is hidden away between a cheesemakers, a supermarket, a hairdressers and a greengrocers. I was surprised when our landlord stopped an begin to beep in the door code. You'd never even know it was there unless you were told. I feel very safe, and the Marais is a lovely district to live in and I'd highly recommend it if you're planing a trip to Paris. It took me 25 minutes to walk to the Notre Dame today.
So without further ado, allow me to show you through the courtyard and around our temporary Marais flat in the 3rd arondissement! 

How very Parisian is this bicycle?!

Our landlord is a writer so there are lots and lots of books and films here, much to mine and Livvy's delight. It's the perfect place for Literature students, and definitely meets our expectations of how a gorgeous traditional little Parisian flat should be! The building is very old but we are nice and high up so we don't get any noise. 

Sadly we are only here for 11 days, and even sadder still, Livvy and I won't be able to live together afterwards. I will be moving just north of here in to my own little apartment. But I will be just up the road, so not very far away from the lovely surroundings and excellent boulangeries here. Plus, the two of us are already planning a trip to a flea market together to pretty up our permanent rooms when we move in. 

My essays are finally getting submitted this week (mark my words!!) so the two of us are doing a proper recky of the Marais early on this week, before we move away and before uni work starts to mount up again. I will be taking my camera for blogging ops so keep watching for that. 

Au revoir for now!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Chick Chick Chicken, Lay a Little Egg For Me

Or at least I think that's how the old song goes. Today I want to introduce you properly to a very special group of girls in my life. They are from the feathery side of the family, but nevertheless they are a very important part of the crew. I popped my wellies on and waited until the rain had stopped (for about 5 minutes) and grabbed my camera to take some snaps of my photogenic ladies.

It's the chickens! 

Having chickens is amazing. My mum had always dreamed of keeping them and after we moved to our new house she finally went for and, and has never looked back for one second!

They're such lovely pets and so friendly. My favourite is when they run up to you to greet you when they see you. Like this...

They're so funny too! They cluck and talk to you, which is great for strange people like me who like to chat to poultry. Anyways I will now show you where the girls live. Their house is the height of chicken luxury. Check this out. It's called a 'Chick Cube'.

It's has a solar powered door that comes down after the girls have gone in and settled down at night to keep them safe and sound. 
And the best bit is that it has a special drawer that pulls out so you can see if they've left any presents for you...

So exciting when you open up the drawer! They lay 2 eggs a day at the moment.

And when you have eggs backing up, there's only one thing to do in my opinion. Make lots of tasty lunches! The eggs are free range and because the chickens are so well-fed I think that the eggs taste so much better than standard shop-bought ones. They're so bright inside. Under-18s should look away now because there's some serious egg-porn coming up. 

Still with me? Ok then cheeky, feast your eyes on this.

Have you ever seen something so beautiful? I just fancied dippy eggs and soldiers. Full on satisfaction. I don't have it often enough!

The girls are definitely helping out with my healthy-eating pledge of 2014. They are the pets that just keep on giving.
When I get back home later this year I will have much more time to make eggy creations - watch out for some tasty recipe posts when I do.

See you in a bit guys, I'm off to pack for Paris!