Saturday, December 29, 2012

Burger King Back in France

According to The Connexion:

“BURGER KING is coming back to France after 15 years away.The fast-food firm has announced plans for outlets at Marseille airport and one on the southbound A4 motorway at Reims. The sites will be run in partnership with Italian company Autogrill, which already manages 140 Burger King restaurants.

The chain, which has 12,600 restaurants worldwide, left in 1997 after failing to keep pace with the rapid expansion of rival McDonald’s which now has 1,200 branches in France.

Head of Autogrill in France Vincent Monnot said they have been looking at France – “a very important market” – for a long time and want to develop as fast as possible.

Burger King’s manager for the Mediterranean area, Leo Leon, said: “We are confident Autogrill will help introduce the Burger King brand to French travellers looking for high quality, tasty and good value food.”

The chain will offer standards like the Whopper as well as some new menu items aimed at meeting French tastes.

It has not yet commented as to whether it also hopes to open town centre restaurants, an area in which Autogrill does not specialise.” ###


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Diner de Noël – Christmas Dinner

< The evening after the “Réveillon,” which is Christmas Day, there was another French family dinner – less formal but equally delicious as the one the night before.  This festivity started with sipping champagne at 8 p.m., with hors d’ouvres of spiced olives and smoked salmon toasts.  Gifts were opened around 9:30, and then dinner was served:  entrée, plat, and dessert – less food than the previous evening’s six-course meal which was a good (literally & figuratively)!
I suppose my New Year’s resolution should be to eat less or drink less champagne – pas possible! :)

Ponsettia rouge

Boudin sausage with apple and fig
                                                    Duck with orange sauce and chestnuts
Ice cream with creme de marron (chestnut glaze)

Ponsettia blanche

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Eve: Le Réveillon de Noël


At this festive time of the year, I enjoyed a French Christmas Eve dinner, known as “Le Réveillon” – a typical family-center meal that started with “amuses-bouches” (hors d’oeuvres) and champagne, followed by a delicious, six-course meal with a “pause cadeaux” (a break to open gifts) before the main course was served. The evening festivities lasted from 8 p.m. to around 1:30 a.m. (dinner started at around 9:30 p.m.), with lively conversations and discussions about politics, wine, food, and an update on personal family topics - a truly magical evening!

Foie gras toasts, endive stuffed with cheese, smoked salmon, salmon eggs

Traditional: Fresh oysters on the half shell
Pumpkin soup with croutons & pumpkin seeds

Raw scallops with mango & cilantro

De-boned pigeon baked in a pastry crust with foie gras sauce

Traditional: Buche de Noel (fruits rouges)

Traditional: Buche de Noel (Black Forest)

Yule Log Cake: “The origins of this most famous and delicious of French pastries can be traced back to the ancient Celtic tradition of celebrating the winter solstice. On this day, the shortest of the year, the Celts would search for a large trunk of either oak, beech, elm or cherry and would burn it. The burning log was a symbol of the rebirth of the sun as well as an offering of thanks to the sun for returning to the earth.”

(Source: French Today)

Source: French Today

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December – My “Baby”!

Anticipation, unknown concerns, expectations, worry, excitement, labor intensive, growth, and labor pains. Since I started my blog nine months ago, these are some of the feelings I have experienced – similar to what a parent-to-be goes through. Coincidentally, I was also a December baby.

Now with my blog’s “birth” this month, I need to continue to shape and nurture it, through attention and loving care, as it continues to grow and reflect my personal influence and experiences. 

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a “child” – so, to all of you who have visited, liked, followed, and commented on my blog, thank you very much – your support has meant more than you can imagine.

Wishing each of you a Happy Holiday and Happy New Year full of peace and prosperity!

Kim at 24/7 in France
palm trees

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Marché de Noël – Christmas Market


Holiday photos featuring local, artisanal products at a local Christmas market.

Singing/Dancing Bear


Santons are small colourful hand-made Christmas figures part of a typical French Nöel crèche (Christmas Nativity scene), made in the South of France. The idea was started by an artist in Marseille and quickly spread through Provence and Languedoc Roussillon. The traditional nativity scene includes figures representing the characters from local village life such as the baker, the fisherman, the butcher, the blind man, the shepherd, the parish priest, the flower seller, the storyteller and the chestnut seller, etc. Typical santon scenes include musicians and dancers who dance the farandole with joined hands. There are two types of Provençal santons: santons d’argile (hand-painted clay figures) and santons habilles (figures dressed in real clothes and carrying real baskets, lavender, fishing nets etc).

Source: Posterous Space

Unpainted Santons


Products from Alsace

Madame Fairy/Fee

Pudding Cake

Buche de Noel

Buche de Noel

(Above photos are mine)                              

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Political Serenade & Tax with a capital "T"


With the real estate tax capital gains laws (English article link), newly proposed by President Hollande, the below political serenade may just become a new national anthem :)

“Come back Sarkozy song is online hit:

A teenager’s song pleading for Nicolas Sarkozy to return to politics in France has passed one million views on YouTube in a month.Josh Stanley, 16, from Monaco, has recorded a song begging Sarkozy to return and save France from François Hollande.

The song also refers to “taxes that are sinking us”, Peugeot and Renault which have “broken”, and (big business boss Bernard) Arnaud who has “cleared off”.

Josh who was born in Monaco to a British father and German mother, has made previous songs from his bedroom, including one called The Good Life, and won “Idées jeunes 2012” – a competition held by the Monegasque education authorities for people aged 15-25. However his “Sarko” song is his first international success – his song is now being sold on iTunes and played on radio. (video below)

He told Nice-Matin he did not know a lot about politics, but had listened to radio news about the French elections and the new government “and I thought it was an opportunity for a song”.

However he may be disappointed – former First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy recently told French Elle magazine it was unlikely Sarkozy would return to frontline politics.

The lyrics include:
Nicolas Sarkozy, reviens je t’en prie, viens nous sauver la vie.
M. le Président, les français sont pas contents,
faut changer de gouvernement.
Tout ce que t’as juré, tu n’y arriveras jamais,
il est temps de dégager”

“Nicolas Sarkozy, please come back, come save our lives.
Mr President, the French are not happy,
it’s time to change governments.
All that you promised, you will never deliver,
it’s time to get out”

Source: The Connexion

Personal Note:  I have no political agenda in posting this article, as I couldn’t vote in the French election.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lost Little Angels

There are no words.....I am still too sad and emotional.

This news article says it all.

Mots Croises de Noel (Christmas Crossword Puzzle)


Try your hand at this Christmas French vocabulary puzzle – I had to do it to get the answers (posted below).

Bonne Chance!


2- crèche

Paris et Ses Alentours – My ‘Like’ List


From my most recent trip to Paris, here are my ‘likes’ / personal recommendations:

Soupe a l’Oignon in Montmartre

This can be tricky! Some brasseries and typical restaurants will take a boxed onion soup, add onions, bread, and cheese and pass it off as the “real” thing. You can sometimes tell, as it will be very salty and have a more gravy-like texture. I always order (authentic) onion soup, as the entrée on the fixed menu, at the Cadet de Gascogne restaurant in Montmartre – you would think the food here would be just average, since this is a very touristy area of Paris, but I have been more than satisfied each time. I love to sit by the front window to people watch, as I enjoy a delicious meal there.


Since I usually travel outside of Paris to the Château of Versailles, I usually eat lunch at the nearby Taverne de Maitre Kanter. The entrance to this very large, Parisienne-like brasserie was theatrical: entering through a pair of red velvet drapes as if arriving on stage. It’s amusing to watch the lively hustling and bustling of the friendly and efficient staff, while enjoying “les delices.”

Chocolat chaud

This trip, I went to Angelina’s on Rue de Rivoli to take in the wonderful hot chocolate, decoration, and atmosphere of this well-known establishment. Their reputation precedes them, so expect to wait in line (yes, even in off season). During a previous trip, I had hot chocolate at Le Grand Colbert, featured in the 2003 movie “Somethings Gotta Give.” You can also stroll through the nearby, covered galleries on Rue Vivienne to walk off the calories.

Château - On the side
Official website photo

At the Chateau in Fontainebleau, I inquired about the horsedrawn carriage rides and was told that they only take place during the summer – WRONG! I had spoken by phone, about a month prior, to the carriage driver so knew he operated in November. As I walked around the chateau, I happened to see a sign for the “calèches” and that one was running every 30 minutes or so. It was a two-horse carriage taking riders around the grounds with a short narrative by the driver; ride lasted about 20 minutes and involved the horses both walking and trotting – very amusing and enjoyable.

View from beside the driver

Paris Walks

This well-known and highly recommended company provides 2 hour, guided thematic walks, which I always try to do while in Paris. The group walks are amusing and informative, taking you through back streets and areas off the beaten path. I first met the owners, during one of their walks, back in 1997, while I was living and working in Paris, and I still enjoy them when visiting the "City of Light."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fairies of the Forest: A Royal Ballet

Seeing that the Le Ballet des Fees de la Foret de Saint-Germain was being held at the Versailles Royal Opera during my recent trip to the area, I thought it might be fun to attend and watch a little classic ballet (read Baryshnikov).  I love baroque style decor, and this is the place where Queen Marie Antoinette performed – I was very excited!

The Opera was dimly lit and bigger than I imagined, although not huge, as I was escorted to my ground floor seat.

Stage curtain

The orchestra music began, with works right out of the time of Louis XIV and Molière, and I felt transported back in time.  The cast acted out a theatrical play, including Cirque de Soleil-type acrobatics and entertaining feats. What an absolutely delightful surprise – it was so well done and truly entertaining! (videos below)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Doomsday Mountain is in France

Since December 21st is only 9 days from today, I decided to post this article published in The Telegraph newspaper.  I was particularly amused about the wine  mentioned, as it’s such a French iconic idea!

Do you believe in the Mayan calendar end-of-the-world prediction?

Article and English translated video link

Monday, December 10, 2012

Winter Driving: A Guest Blog

PyreneesWith snow on the mountains, this guest blog is timely.

A big MERCI to my guest blogger, Eve Walsh, who has kindly written the following article about winter weather driving for my blog. She is a freelance writer with a keen interest in travel writing as well as a dear love of France and French culture. It is her dream to retire to Brittany and immerse herself in French life fully.

Driving to a French Ski Resort – Safely Does It
France offers some of the best skiing in Europe and over the next few months millions of people will be taking advantage of this for their winter vacation. While a lot of people will fly in to one of the nearby airports and rely on a transfer by coach to their chosen ski resort, many more will get to the French Alps or Pyrenees under their own steam – either using their own car or hiring one. This doesn’t pose too much of a problem for those used to driving on snow – indeed many French families make the trip to the Alps each year and have become accustomed to winter driving – but for people who don’t have this experience, driving in the Alps or Pyrenees over winter can be hazardous. Although it is no substitute for experience, taking the necessary precautions before a journey on snow covered roads in France can reduce the chance of you coming into difficulties or having an accident.

Extra grip
While winter tyres aren’t mandatory when driving in France, it is still worth considering their use. The material used in their manufacture and their tread pattern means that they perform better in colder conditions, so they provide better grip when driving on snow, reducing the likelihood of your car skidding. Do check that when using winter tyres that their tread depth is at least 3mm to ensure that they work effectively. Although they are no guarantee that you won’t have an accident, if you are unlucky enough to be involved in one, using them will work in your favour; not doing so could shift the blame for the accident on to you. However, many French roads at higher altitudes indicate that snow chains must be used; though on some signs they advise that winter tyres are a permissible alternative. Snow chains provide traction on compacted snow and have the advantage that they are a lot cheaper than buying alternative tyres, though they can be tricky to fit the first few times that you try to do so.

Extra provisions
In case the worst should happen and you breakdown or have an accident, ensure that you have all that you need to keep you safe and warm till help can arrive. A well charged mobile phone will be vital should you need to raise the alarm. It is compulsory to carry a warning triangle in France for use when you need to warn other drivers that your car is stationary, as is a first aid kit, which you may need to use before help can reach you. Carry extra clothing and a blanket in the car along with a hot flask and some high calorie snacks – a bar of chocolate is ideal. You never know whether it might be day or night when you get into difficulty, so always keep a torch in the car.

Ensure visibility
Before you even think about driving away, ensure that your windscreens, windows, mirrors and lights are free from snow and ice to ensure that you can see others and that they can see you; your licence plate should also be clear. It is advisable to clear any snow from the roof of your car before you set off, as when you drive this can easily fall on to your windscreen or fly off on to another car, potentially impeding visibility. If it is snowing heavily during your journey, consider stopping when it is safe to do so to remove further snow.

Driving on snow
Many people forget that stopping distances can be up to 10 times higher, so drive at a slower speed on snow. This also means that you will have to reduce your speed in plenty of time should you need to stop. The road conditions mean that harsh braking is out of the question, so instead use your gears to slow your car by moving down into a low gear before gently applying the brakes.

Stuck in snow
If you come back to your car and you find that when you try to drive off you have become stuck, don’t be tempted to rev the engine, as this will actually make the rut worse. The best approach is to gently move your car backwards and forwards using the highest gear you are able to. Should this fail, having a shovel in the car will allow you to remove the snow surrounding the wheels and help you get on your way. However, if you need help to push your car out, there are usually plenty of friendly people around in ski resorts who are more than happy to help you. Becoming stuck in a snow drift is a more serious situation, so call for breakdown assistance or the emergency services. While you wait for them in your car, don’t be tempted to run the engine, as if the exhaust is blocked with snow carbon monoxide could enter the vehicle, which could be fatal.
This forward planning will hopefully see you safely on your way to problem free driving on your ski trip. However, if you are in any doubt of your driving ability in snow, consider alternative means of transport.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Wifi Rip-off

Isn't it only logical that the higher the hotel rating, the more amenities and services are provided and included in the upward prices to match? You would think, right?

Well, I recently traveled to Paris and the surrounding area, staying in a variety of hotels, from 2 to luxury 4-star, chosen for their central locations, breakfast included in the price, and my must-have requirement of wifi.   I benefited from off-season rates, being November, and all was going well, until I refused one hotel's wifi, as a matter of principle  (sorry, dear readers, for any lapse of regular posts during this time).

Here's my list:

1.  Lutèce Royal Hotel in the 13th arrondissement of Paris = four star hotel which had a nice size room, friendly staff and free wifi.  Not as central as I would have liked, but good breakfast buffet.

2.  Hotel de France in the 5th arrondissement of Paris = three star hotel with nice room, friendly staff, and free wifi.

3.  Hotel Aigle Noir, located across from the Chateau of Fontainebleau = four star hotel with free wifi (blogging a separate post about this hotel)

4.  Familia Hotel in the 5th  arondissement of Paris = two star hotel with friendly staff, and free wifi.  The room was small and average, but chosen for its easy access to my departure train station.

5.  Trianon Palace Waldorf Astoria about 1 km from the Chateau of Versailles = four star luxury hotel with wifi, spa and pool, elegant restaurant and bar/lounge area (a glass of champagne cost 17 Euros), and formal and professional/polite staff.

Oh yes, they had wifi alright, but every service was à la carte - this meant that they charged 4,50 Euros for 15 minutes of Internet access at the concierge desk, or if I was only going to be "two minutes", I wouldn't be charged.  Two minutes, really? They charge 25 Euros for room Internet access (not sure if this is per day) or 14 Euros to rent a plugin access cable (not sure if this is per day) - at this point, I was so annoyed, I stopped listening to the details.  How absurd, I thought, to charge extra for wifi, especially at a luxury hotel, not to mention that it's free at lesser rated hotels - how can they even justify charging for it?

I guess if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it came into play for this hotel, although I did get a end-of-summer room rate.  I wrote my critique and handed it into reception, stating that I would not stay at their hotel a matter of principle!

Go figure: this morning I received an email for submitting an electronic survey for my stay, so I guess my letter went into "la poubelle"!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

French-Italian Lasagne

I don't have a cooking gene, but have made over the years, lasagne: an easy, one pan kind of meal.  I hadn't thought of making it in France though, for some reason, until the other day.  I bought FIORINI brand
"Lasagnes aux oeufs" (eggs=19%)which were totally UNlike the American wavy-edged lasagne noodles.  And, there was even a recipe on the back of the box (OK, I admit, this is the real reason I bought it)!

Whoa! I started reading the recipe and it didn't say to cook the noodles before layering them into the pan - What!? I had to be mis-translating something here, so I then looked at the general cooking directions on the side of the box:

"Ne necessite pas de pre-cuisson" (not necessary to precook)

HUH? I had never made lasagne without first cooking the noodles - so surely, I was not reading the French correctly - but Non, this was correct! I didn't believe it, but went ahead and layered my UNcooked noodles with my own version of vegetable lasagne, thinking this couldn't possibly turn out well.

Voila! In 40 minutes, it had finished cooking and was DONE! Now I'm wondering if I really needed to pre-cook American lasagne noodles, or is this a case of cultural cooking differences!?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pop-up-Cinema without Pop-corn

I recently went to see the 1955 movie “To Catch A Thief,” starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, shown at a local pub over lunch of antipasto and wine. Organized by Christine Thomas of Pop-Up Cinema, held in the vaulted basement of the Snug restaurant in Old Nice, and sponsored by Nice Tea Co., the film featured various locations on the French Riviera: Eze, Monaco, Nice, St. Jeannet, and Cannes. Reportedly, Grace Kelly met Prince Ranier at the Cannes Film Festival, just after the release of this film.

It was a very pleasant way to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon, traveling backwards in time to familiar places.  It’s amusing to watch an old film, with its iconic music and superimposed images, compared with today’s super and realistic special effects.  I also happened to see a deux chevaux car from the late 1950′s, which perfectly matched the theme of today’s movie – charmant!

Cary Grant & Grace Kelly

French Riviera winding roads

Pre-movie ambiance