Paris in the Summertime

Last week I was in Paris (insert a huge smiley face because it’s one of my happy places. I actually think it owns part of my heart) and I consider myself VERY lucky that I had the chance to spend a few days in Montmartre, staying at the most incredible apartment. By incredible apartment I mean top floor apartment on the highest hill in Paris.  Seriously I was walking around trying to speak but the only word coming out of my mouth was ‘WOW’ (on repeat). Unfortunately my photos don’t really do it justice, but hopefully it gives you an idea. I had a view of Sacre Coeur from the dining room, a view of the Eiffel Tower from my bedroom window, and a private rooftop terrace with a 360degree view over all of Paris.

 

LoveBites - Sacre Coeur

 

Each time I discover a new area of Paris I fall in love with it a little bit more. Monmarte is the 18th arrondissement of Paris. It’s a busy area with lots of great restaurants and local artists; it’s also the home of Sacre Coeur & Moulin Rouge. I only had to walk down stairs, open the front door and take one step to be right in the middle of it all; People enjoying dinner, eating ice cream, listening to musicians, admiring paintings or posing while artists sketch them (which btw is just incredible to watch!  It’s such an exciting, inspiring place and definitely got the creative juices flowing).

 

LoveBites in Paris - Monmartelovebites paris night view

 

I spent most of my time wandering the streets of Paris, soaking up its beauty… But I also squeezed in a picnic under the Eiffel Tower, fireworks at Versallies, some bike riding around Paris, climbing the Arc de Triomphe, lunch along Champs Élysées, countless minutes staring at the Eiffel Tower sparkle, a visit to the antique markets, afternoon tea at Ladurée, a show at the theatre, a walking tour and of course multiple visits to boulangerie patisseries, cafés, crepe makers and chocolate shops.

 

LoveBites - Paris Antique MarketsLovebites - Paris Arc de TriompheLoveBites VersaillesLoveBites Versailles FireworksLovebites in Paris

 

Oh and yes, I am aware that the majority of the experiences listed above include food BUT each day also included a lot a walking – I actually walked 25km one day.  The reality is 1. I’m a foodie and 2. I’m in France! I love food. I love cooking it, creating with it, learning about it, eating it, sharing it and taking photos of it. I believe food can bring people together; it has the ability to enhance moments and create an even more memorable experience.

People who love to eat are always the best people ~ Julia Child

 

Lovebites in ParisLoveBites in Paris - Eiffel TowerLovebites in Paris - Champs Elysees

 

I could post many more photos of this super pretty place I don’t want to overload you (hopefully I haven’t already?)

I can not wait to spend more time in Paris. I’m already counting down the days until I get to walk it’s cobblestone paths, see it’s sparkling lights and eat some macaron delights all over again. x

 

 

Finding beauty in the midst of clouds – Switzerland

Even when I was 2168m above sea level, surrounded by clouds and could only see a few meters in front of me, I found the sweetest little wild flowers. It was not the view I was expecting but it was still beautiful.

LoveBites - Wild flowers in Switzerland
A few of my friends are going through a tough time at the moment so the first couple of paragraphs are especially for them. My highlights of the Swiss Alps are in this blog post too so please stay with me… You won’t be disappointed.

Finding beauty in everything does not always come naturally. Stuff goes wrong, plans fail, people disappointment you (or you disappoint yourself which I actually think is more heartbreaking than when others do it).  I’m well aware that sometimes life is not fun and does not seem beautiful.
 

When everything is failing around you and you feel clouded with confusion please try to remember that eventually the sun will start to shine again (sounds like a cliché but it’s actually true) so until then please try to look for the pretty wild flowers of life, smile and be thankful…  They are probably hiding right under your feet. x

 

Ok, back to our weekend getaway in Switzerland (which btw happened a couple of weeks ago – I am just terribly behind in updating you all!) Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great; it was raining and cold which limited the activities we could do.  We checked into our chalet (super cute and oh so fun to say!) and jumped on the train to explore the area.  We had planned to spend the day heading to the very top of the mountains (they call it ‘the top of Europe’ although I believe it’s not actually the highest point, which is a little confusing) but the weather was against us so we chose a different town where we thought there would be a higher possibility of having a clear view. The clouds were just too low to see the tops of the mountains, however I did find peonies growing in someone’s front yard, wild strawberries growing on the side-walk and more cute chalets to admire. Plus the scenery during the train trip was spectacular.

LoveBites - Swiss AlpsLoveBites - Switzerland

The next morning Nathalie and I went for a walk through the local village. Yes it was overcast and cool and my bed was cosy and warm but I needed to explore this area while I had the chance.

Lovebites - Swiss ChaletLovebites - Swiss Chalets

We drove to Grindelwald and caught a cable-car to a little place 2000+ metres above sea level (which was also a refreshing 8 degrees) with the hope of seeing postcard like landscapes – blue skies, glassy lakes, mountains covered by lush green grass, scattered trees with white snow sprinkled like icing on top. This did not happen… I was well and truly surrounded by clouds BUT this is where I found those sweet little wild flowers and that moment was special enough for me. #findingbeautyineverything

We stopped half way down the mountain to eat lunch (warm soup was needed) and once our bellies were full and we were feeling adventurous we decided that we should walk the rest of the trip down and I’m so pleased we did.  After about 40 minutes it stopped raining and the clouds cleared a bit. The view was beautiful!

LoveBites in SwitzerlandLovebites - Swiss AlpsSwiss Alps - Girls and me

Seriously, all of this did not happen because of a big bang! This earth was lovingly created for us. Soak in its beauty. x

One Month on…

Can you believe I’ve been in France for one whole month?  Sometimes it feels like the days have just flown by, but when I take the time to sit down and reflect on the last 30 days I realise I have actually squeezed quite a lot into one month!

I’ve seen many things… I’ve tasted new foods… I’ve been on adventures… I’ve walked new paths… I’ve felt many emotions… I’ve made new friends… I’ve learnt more about myself… And each experience has impacted me in one way or another and has made me grow.  
 
At its best, travel should challenge our preconceptions and most cherished views,
cause us to rethink our assumptions, shake us a bit,
make us broader minded and more understanding
Arthur Frommer
 
I’ve created some incredible memories and I’m so grateful for this experience. I can’t wait to see what the next month holds… x
 
France Love Bites Lifestyle

Living the Dream

 

Living the dream

 

A few weeks ago I ran into an old friend and we shared our travel plans with each other. Their response to my trip was “living the dream” and this simple little sentence really got me thinking.

 

This was not actually my dream. Although I adore children, living in France and being an Au pair was never on my wish list (visiting France numerous times however was definitely on the list!) My dream was to be happily married and to be planning to introduce my own little ones into the world. My dream was to have a successful (and super pretty) little cafe that sells delicious food, fresh flowers and lovely homewares. My dream was to buy and renovate a house… But as situations change, dreams have to change too. Actually, if I am honest with myself I have to admit that I haven’t totally given up on those dreams but instead I have accepted that they are not in my foreseeable future and there are many other dreams to create.

 

Success is not final, failure isn’t fatal; It’s the courage to continue that counts ~ Winston Churchill

 

Now I dream of being a good friend to the incredible people in my life. I dream of having a business that brings happiness to those who see (and hopefully buy) my products. I dream of helping children around the world (this one is actually relatively easy to achieve by sponsoring a child. A little bit of money each month can help provide precious children with food, water, education, healthcare, housing etc). I dream of being the very best Aunty I can possibly be. I dream of being less scared of the future, trusting God more and letting him guide my life. I dream of being a person who spreads love, joy, acceptance and encouragement; a person who is an example of strength, kindness and generosity. I dream of nurturing the gifts and talents I’ve been blessed with and using them every single day in some way. I dream of making a positive impact on the world.  Although these are dreams, they are also just choices and I’m trying my hardest to make them happen. In that sense I guess I am ‘living the dream’.

 

I’ve redirected my thought process from living the dream = life is blissful to living the dream = making the most of it. Life can be hard. I haven’t just run away for 3 months and created a perfect little life for myself. There are still plenty of challenges but it’s in these moments I have the opportunity to learn and grow. It’s in these moments that I need to remember that they don’t last forever. I’ve also found it helps to stay positive and thank God for alwaysbeing right by my side.

 

There are adventures, beauty and goodness waiting around each and every corner and making the most of them is what ‘living the dream’ means to me.

Are you living the dream? x

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Sweet as Pie

Last Sunday we headed up to the mountains (Vosges) to pick wild blueberries.  We found them, picked them, ate them, brought them home and baked them into a delicious pie…  So I would say it was a successful trip!

Blueberry picking

First we enjoyed a little picnic lunch and I sat in awe at the magnificent view (it snows here in winter and there are several small ski resorts located in other areas of the mountain), then once our bellies were full we got to work. After about 1.5 hours of picking blueberries we had all had enough so we packed up and drove to a restaurant on the top of the mountain (which is 1300 meters above sea level) and enjoyed a piece of blueberry pie for afternoon tea (which was delicious) but I was very pleased when the next night the girls told me that my pie was even better than the one we bought! YAY!

Blueberry Picking

Blueberry picking was not at all like I imagined.  We were in a paddock with cows, on a mountain, and I discovered the blueberries grow on the ground on bushes that look like tiny little shrubs or weeds. The blueberries were tiny but full of flavour and colour.  Note: Being tall is not an advantage when picking wild blueberries.

Blueberry Tart - Step 1

I’ve never made a blueberry pie before (I have however,  made quite a few mulberry pies from the tree in our backyard.  I have lovely [and messy] childhood memories involving those delicious berries!) but since I’ve never really cooked with fresh blueberries I googled pie recipes, had a quick read, then made it all up, tasting it along the way – which is how I cook most of the time.

 

RECIPE

Pastry…

125g Butter (softened)

1/2 cup Caster Sugar

250g  Plain Flour

1 x Egg

Combine the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Add the egg and mix in. Slowly add the flour and mix until a dough has formed. (I just used a wooden spoon for this process but if I was at home I would probably use the electric beaters). Tip the dough out of the bowl and give it a quick knead to ensure all ingredients are combined before rolling the pastry out evenly.  Your pastry will need to be rolled out thin enough to cover the base of the pie dish.  I used a 24cm pie dish.  Line the pie dish with butter and then flour to ensure the pastry doesn’t stick.  Cover the pie dish with the pastry and piece the bottom with a fork a few times. I also went around the edges with a fork to make a pretty little pattern. I baked this for about 20 minutes on 180 degrees Celsius (fan forced oven) or until it was slightly brown.

Blueberry Tart - Step 2

Blueberry filling…

5 cups of fresh blueberries

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

4 tablespoons cornflour

Put all the blueberries in a saucepan and mix in sugar and water.  Stir on heat until sugar is dissolved and blueberries have started cooking and are softening. Once the blueberries are hot they will release juices which will make the mixture quite runny. taste the mixture and make sure you are happy with the flavour. You might need to add a bit more sugar if you want it really sweet! Add in the cornflour one spoon at a time, stirring continuously. The cornflour will thicken up the warm blueberry mixture so keep adding until you have a consistency you are happy with.

Blueberry Tart - Step 3

Pour the blueberry mixture onto the pastry in the pie dish. It doesn’t need to be baked again but if you want to you can decorate it with strips of pastry like I did (if you have any left) and bake for about 10-15 minutes until cooked. If you want to decorate the top with pastry I would recommend not cooking the pastry as long in the beginning step.

Blueberry Tart -  Step 4

Serve with cream or ice cream.

Bon appetit. x

Blueberry Tart - Bon Appetit

Discovering how nice Nice actually is…

Last week we went on a little holiday to Nice.  I know you might be thinking –  ‘My Goodness! She’s doing a lot!’ And it’s true- we are busy! I just looked at the calendar and it’s almost fully booked for the next 2 months. I did warn you that there will be lots of photos and you shouldn’t be disappointed with this post. It’s taken me a stupid amount of time to write!

Anyway back to the lovely French Riviera. I loved it from the moment I spotted it from the plane window. It was early in the morning and I had such a clear view of the coastline. It was lovely seeing a beach, even though it’s so very different from my beach. It wasn’t until I saw the water that I realised how much I miss walking Sari at the beach each day. I have been walking Faya most days and it’s still enjoyable, but I definitely miss the special moments with my Sari girl.

With the sun shining and a warm delicious 30 degrees most days, Nice really felt like a summer holiday.

Nice

 

Day 1…

We arrived in Nice at around 8.30am then headed straight for Marineland (similar to Seaworld on the GC).  Personally, I prefer Seaworld – it’s bigger and has rides, more shows and better aquariums… but I did get to see Killer whales at this place, so that was very fun!

Marineland

Afterwards we drove to the most incredible little village – Biot. It had so much character and life about it – the locals were out and about and it didn’t seem too touristy.  Exploring it’s little streets was by far one of my favourite things about this trip.

Biot

Biot

We checked into our apartment and headed out for dinner. With Nice being located so close to Italy I could really feel it’s influence and it made me reflect on my incredible trip there 3 years ago. I have been trying to eat the local specialities whenever possible so my dinner was stuffed tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini etc, topped off with a delicious local rosé.

Dinner at Nice

 

Day 2…

In the morning Nathalie and I explored the local markets which were filled with fresh, local produce, products and flowers. I love markets and always enjoy visiting them in different places around the world.  The fruit and vegetables looked amazing and I wanted to buy everything and cook a feast!  Plus it’s the season for berries so I was in berry heaven again!

Markets

I got to spend some time at the beach then wandered the streets and shopped for a couple of hours. We also went on a little train that took us up to a magnificent lookout.

Beach time at Nice

Panorama of Nice

We jumped on our scooters (oh I should mention – they were the kind children use, I was not on a cute little Vespa) and rode around to the Marina, stopping on the way back to the apartment to spend a few more moments checking out the Mediterranean Sea and watching the sun set over the mountains.

Sunset at Nice

Nice Marina

 

Day 3…

Lavender hunt! We jumped in the car and drove inland to hunt for fields of purple treasure (lavender).  I’m sure you’ve all seen pictures of the lavender fields in Provence (if you haven’t please Google it – but be prepared to be amazed!) and knowing Summer is the perfect time for it I put it on my wish list. Unfortunately Nice is about 3 hours drive away from some of the huge farms but we managed to find a small farm about 1 hour away, located just outside a cute village called Goudon.

Goudon

We also visited a lovely village called Saint-Paul de Vence. Due to the fact that most of these little towns are located on the highest peaks they all have incredible views… and obviously plenty of history and amazing architecture (not to mention beautiful doors. Yes, I love doors. I always take photos of them when I am on holidays – the girls think I’m crazy).

Saint-Paul de Vence

Saint-Paul de Vence

Saint-Paul de Vence

 

Day 4…

The sun decided it didn’t want to come out and play today which was a bit sad. After my morning walk around the city centre of Nice we checked out of our apartment and headed east to Monaco. It was pretty but would have been much more enjoyable if it wasn’t raining.  As we drove past the Casino I was left a little speechless. My mind boggles at the amount of money spent on the cars alone and I couldn’t help but wonder what that money could do if it was spent in other areas of the world.

Monaco

Monaco

After a late lunch and a stroll through the gardens we headed back to the airport to watch the Soccer – World Cup quarter finals (France vs Germany), unfortunately I was surrounded by disappointed locals as Germany won – although feeling the anticipation of the supporters definitely made watching the match more interesting for me.

I will be back in Provence in September and I am already looking forward to exploring different areas.  I LOVE wandering the streets of the little villages and soaking in all they have to offer… and of course it will be nice to see the sea again.

I know it’s pretty chilly at home at the moment. I hope this blog post has had enough summery goodness in it to warm your day. x

Beach at Nice

 

 

Plombières les Bains – Weekend Escape

I had the opportunity to visit this adorable little town for the weekend.  Plombières les Bains is located in the picturesque Vosges, North East France. It’s a small village with an incredible amount of charm; full of antique stores, walking tracks, thermal springs and stunning architecture.

 

Plombières

Plombières - Street

House fence

 

Over 2000 years ago, the Romans traveling through this area noticed steam coming from the river, which they discovered was caused from natural thermal springs.  The water has great healing properties and became a very popular retreat for many wealthy families including Neapolian III.   It was also used for people recovering from war related injuries to bath in.  It’s incredible to think that I was walking in the same underground corridor, sitting in the same sauna and enjoying the same spa as people did 2000 years ago (obviously they have renovated the exterior but underground is still the same, unfortunately cameras don’t work in saunas!)

 

Thermal Spa

 

Later that afternoon Marine and I headed off for an 8+ km walk through the forest to soak in some more of Plombieres’ natural beauty – and we also made some new friends along the way.

 

Plombières - Cows

Plombières - Walking track

 

I stayed in this incredible 4 story house.  Some would call it a castle, right? And to be honest it did kind of made me feel like a Cinderella for 2 nights! With everything you could possibly imagine or want (think stunning architecture, large luxurious bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, alfresco area, 2 dining rooms, library, gym, pool, art studio (ok that’s just my suggestion/dream – but they are in the process of creating a space downstairs in the amazing sunroom dedicated to textiles [so that’s kind of an art studio right?] – textile design was popular in the area 200+ years ago).

 

Plombières - House

Plombières - View from balcony

House Interior

House Interior

 

Hidden away in the hills it really is the prefect weekend retreat and I’m very grateful I got to experience it all.  I hope you all had an enjoyable weekend too? x

 

 

I love you berry much

I love you berry much

 

I am addicted to berries. It doesn’t really matter what type – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, mulberries, boysenberries, cranberries etc…  I don’t care, I love them all and will take whatever I can get!  Luckily it’s easy to get my daily fix because I discovered that I have delicious raspberries growing amongst the weeds in my backyard!  SO EXCITING!  Going outside and picking the ripe ones to enjoy for morning tea has become part of my morning routine.  Delicious + fresh + healthy + free = best combination ever!

 

Fresh Raspberries

 

We also have red currants (which might actually be on the neighbours property but what’s a fence line between friends, right?) and I found a few wild strawberries growing which are tiny but so very flavoursome.

 

Berries

 

Strawberries from the supermarket look and taste amazing and I have been indulging in them each day. Of course I chose the ones in the cutest little basket because pretty packaging wins me over every time!

 

Strawberry basket

 

Speaking of berries, in a couple weeks time we plan to go strawberry picking and I have also been told that when we go to the mountains there will be wild blackberries growing everywhere.  I can imagine I’m going to look like a crazy person crawling through the bushes with a big smile on my face trying to pick as many as possible. I can’t wait to bake some berry tarts with this amazing fresh produce! Yum Yum!

Anyway, it’s time to eat these babies.  Have a happy day my loves x

 

Raspberries & Red Currents

 

 

Settling in…

My first few days in France have been full of challenges and adventures.  It’s a little different to how I imagined it would be, but if I actually think about it, the time leading up to leaving was probably spent thinking more about the things I was leaving behind and the ridiculously gigantic ‘to do’ list that I was trying to complete instead of imagining what my experience in France would really be like. I know some of you would be giggling at that realisation because those of you who saw me in the last 2 weeks know how frantic life was! Anyway, I promised myself (and you) that this blog would be open and honest so here are the facts…

Traveling is tiring. It took me about 29 hours to get here. I slept for a total of about 4 (which was actually quite good for me as I don’t normally sleep on planes). The view (from above the clouds) of the sun rising was incredible and another positive is that I have avoided being smashed with jetlag. YAY!

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

I’ve had a few ‘ummm… what am I doing?’ moments but these were expected. I knew that there would be times where I questioned my decision to move overseas for 3 months, but I also know this is an experience with a limited time frame and therefore I have to make the most of this opportunity while I have it.

My French family is lovely. They are friendly, kind, generous and entertaining. I’m starting to feel like I’m really connecting with the girls. We laugh a lot which is always a good start to any relationship. We all believe it’s going to be a very fun summer with lots of exciting adventures. The village is probably a little more rural than I imagined, but it’s beautiful. Within only a few minutes walk from the house you will find fields of corn and wheat, the occasional patch of poppies growing wildly and random patches of beautiful blooms.  I will have to spend some more time exploring the town itself as each day when I walk the dog (Faya) I head towards the fields not into town.

 

I already miss home. It makes me sad thinking about how far away I actually am. I know this feeling will probably pass once I have settled in here and I feel comfortable in my surroundings. I am very grateful for technology though as it makes the distance feel a little less than what it actually is.

Driving here takes a lot of concentration. It’s fine when there are cars to follow, however I’m finding it a little more difficult when there are no cars around because it’s so natural for me to drive on the left side of the road. I’ll get used to it soon though. Also, I’m completely confused where I am most of the time. Thank God for the English speaking GPS!

I can not speak or understand French. This could be a problem living in small village in France. Ooopsy! Note to self: Must learn quickly! (Way easier said than done). The 20+ words I know (most of which are food related) don’t seem to help much unless I am looking for a boulangerie patisserie so I can buy an éclair, macaron, bagette, brioche or citron tarte. (This activity may be occurring daily so perhaps it is helpful after all? Haha)

Giant Macarons

 

This change has been harder than I expected, but in saying that I’ve pretty much been a hermit for at least the last year.  Most of the time I have had some form of anxiety when I go places without my little posse (i.e. my family) so when I was saying in my last post that this is a big thing for me… I meant it’s a HUGE thing!!! This experience is going to completely stretch me and teach me a lot about myself.

I am learning to really notice, appreciate and smile at the little things. Beauty is all around you if you open your eyes to it.  Can you see it? x

New Beginnings

Even though this journey of self discovery (as I like to call it) actually started a couple of years ago when the direction I thought my life was heading changed dramatically and I fell (literally at times) into a mess (it’s a long story that involves failing & many tears so let’s leave that for a much later time) I stand here today with a VERY exciting itinerary in front of me involving one of my favourite things…

 

France here I come!

France here I come!

 

Oui, in a few days I’m leaving my family, friends and my beautiful Sari girl (yes I have tears in my eyes just writing that!) to be an Au pair in France for the summer. I’ve found the most gorgeous little family to be apart of and it’s going to be an amazing adventure and a wonderful beginning to a new chapter of my life.

I’m not really a risk-taker, most of the time common sense pretty much rules my life (in saying that, I have still made my fair share of mistakes). Generally, when decision making, I weigh up the positives and negatives. I don’t really do spontaneous things, I plan – especially all the big things, but I have discovered (as I’m sure you have too) that sometimes even the best laid plans don’t always turn out as you had hoped. In these situations it might take a while to adjust and accept change, but you’ve really got to try to have a positive attitude, believe that everything happens for a reason and embrace new adventures that come your way. (Yes, typing that is a little reminder to myself as well. It’s a challenge to turn pessimism into optimism, but it can be done!)

Ok, so the ‘how on earth did I decide to become an Au pair in France‘ story goes like this…

One day, one of my friends decided I needed a change and suggested I moved to France. My reaction was ‘No way’ which was proceeded by laughter. Seriously, I laughed. I love my home, I love my space, I love being so close to my family and watching my adorable nephew and niece grow up, I love the flexibility I have to be creative in many areas of my life, I love spending time with Sari and couldn’t imagine not seeing her each day. I’m comfortable in these surroundings. This is my home and even though whenever I have a bad day I announce that ‘Sari and I are running away to Paris’ I had never really considered going anywhere for longer than a month. I just couldn’t… Or could I?

A seed was planted and it grew into an idea. With a little bit of watering that idea became a plan. For many years I’ve had a bit if a love affair with France. I’ve been to Paris before but that experience only fueled my love for it.

My Paris Trip 2011

I registered with an online Au pair organisation and came to the conclusion that if its meant to be it will happen. I actually told God if he wanted me to go then he would have to find a family that ticked all the boxes. Well, God (being the show off that he sometimes is) ticked all the boxes and even added a few more. For example, the family I’m going to work for even have a Golden Retriever, just like me. Fun right?

So here I am, trying to get my life organised to go to France for just over 3 months. It’s overwhelming but I’m so excited to be able to really immerse myself in the French culture and create the most incredible memories. It really is an opportunity of a lifetime and one I never imagined I would get so please consider this your official warning; expect photos and lots of them.

I’m squeezing you all in my luggage. Ready? x