The Long Overdue Newsletter
Well it’s been a while. A long while. My plan was to send a nice email for my 6 months anniversary of my arrival in France, but my parents had come to France for a visit so I put all my efforts into spending time with them. When they left, I was so tired, I slept for almost all the time on the train ride to the north of France where my internship is. I expected to have the newsletter out to you before I started my internship, but now I’m two or three weeks in, and just sending it to you now….
I graduated pastry school and I’m so happy to be done! I really enjoyed my experience and really do miss some of the people I’ve met along the way, but I was so very ready for a new adventure, a new environment. The small town of Yssingeaux and the group of classmates, locals, and professors that lead to being too comfortable and too normal. That being said, the experience and the time spent there was absolutely amazing, and I’m happy I did it! The chefs really put in the efforts to be amazing teachers and make connections with students. I’m still in contact with some of the chefs and speak with them regularly asking questions.
A road trip through Auvergne and Provence kickstarted a vacation with my parents. After my graduation, we decided to drive from Lyon to Nice, a really nice 5 hour drive through the regions of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azure through the countryside and along the southern coast. Originally started as a way to avoid the train strike that day and still arrive on time, the trains ended up deciding not to go on strike and we found out that costs for one way car rentals are quite excessive. But, it was a nice drive and we stopped for lunch in a city I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to visit. For lunch, we stopped in Aix-en-Provence. When we first got to Aix, we circled around downtown going between different parking garages trying to find a spot to stay for lunch. When we finally found a place to park, the time to find a place to eat came. We walked for what get like ages going through the cobblestone streets when we realised it was the day of the weekly market in downtown Aix, so our hopes of finding a place to eat quickly diminished as we continued to walk around.
We came across this amazing little store that was just a window selling madeleines. It has a line about 5 people long, so we thought it would be a good idea to come back on the way out. After lunch, we did make our way back to Madeleines par Christophe, this time only 3 people in line. Once I got to the window, I found they only sold two madeleines, lemon and almond. We got 3 of each to try out, and boy were they nice. They had a just barely past golden outside, exactly what a madeleine should be, with a crackly texture and soft inside, with a hump formed at the top during baking. If you can’t make it out to Aix-en-Provence to taste these amazing madeleines, you can try out my recipe on the blog!
Take a coffee break and try making some madeleines yourself! Don’t worry if you don’t have a madeleine pan, you can make them in some mini cupcake pans too :)
A vacation with my parents in the French Riviera was an amazing time. After my parents spent a week in Lyon while I was in class, they got to experience a real French city, because Côte d’Azure did not feel like France to me. There was salt and pepper on the table, bread didn’t come with dinner unless you asked for it, the streets were clean and it felt light and airy in the city centre. A stark difference from the rest of France. We based ourselves in old Nice, which was beautiful. Our Airbnb was directly adjacent to the Cathedrale Sainte-Réparâtes de Nice in old Nice, with the bells waking us up in the morning. We arrived on a Saturday evening, so I made sure to book us a table far in advance. The first night, we had dinner at Bistrot de Jennifer, an upscale restaurant with an Italian menu. Another point about the Côte d’Azure not being very French - almost all the food was Italian, we had troubles finding non-Italian food some nights. The next day we headed to Menton, as there was an annual lemon festival and with it being Sunday, not much would be open or available to do in Nice. The lemon festival in Menton was quite interesting - nothing that I expected. They had massive sculptures made from whole lemons, limes, and oranges. They also had plenty of workshops available for purchase, but in fact they were not available as they were sold out weeks ago. They also had a orchid festival and artisan market where they sold plenty of lemon based and inspired and infused foods.
After Menton, we made it back to Nice to find a non-Italian dinner and prepare for the adventure the next day. Èze is a small village at the top of a hill about a 20 minutes drive from downtown Nice. Propped on top of a mount, Èze is a medieval village that changed hands between France and Italy many times with an exotic and Mediterranean garden in the historic village. This garden, you would think is so out of place, but there are cacti all over the region, so old that they turn woody at the base. This garden had agave cacti (the type of cactus that is used to make mezcal and tequila or your favourite sweetener) and so many other tropical plants and cacti. We took the rest of the day to explore Nice. We went to a few patisseries throughout Nice and explored the old city as well as the Promenade des Anglais. One of the patisseries we went to is where one of my classmates is completing her internship at, Amour Pâtisserie, a vegan and gluten-free. It was an amazing patisserie with an great selection. I had a petit gâteau kinder, a Kinder-inspired dessert with an amazing milk chocolate mouse, hazelnut-chocolate centre, and a cream topping. I would definitely go to Amour anytime I go to Nice.
Now, instead of a coffee break - take a mocha brownie break - and check out the newest recipe on the blog for Mocha Brownies!
The morning my parents left for Canada, I packed up my things and continued on to the train station, instead of the airport, to begin my 11 hour train ride to Brest. I took my super heavy carryon with me, my backpack, and my tote bag with my towels, because I had no where else to fit them, and walked the 20 minute walk to the train station to grab the first train to Paris. Got on the train, got to my seat and enjoyed my time waiting for the train to go. It was a nice train ride, nothing special aside from the stops all along the Cote d’Azure all the way up to Marseille, then it was a direct train to Paris. Once I arrived in Paris, I had about 45 minutes to get from the Gare de Lyon to the Gare de Montparnasse, which could be a ridiculous distance if the metro was on strike. Luckily it was not (there are lots of strikes in France right now over retirement reform), and I got the the station with about 20 minutes to spare and boarded my next train to Brest. I normally always request a window seat and if possible, a solo seat. For some reason, I was assigned an aisle seat. When an old lady came and asked to take the seat beside me, I thought alright, she’s probably going the same route as me, all the way to Brest. I caught a glimpse of her ticket as she was getting settled and saw that she was getting off at the second stop, I was somewhat annoyed. When she got off, another lady got on and came to her seat, and again, got off the train before me. Luckily she got off at the second last stop, so even if someone else got on, I wouldn’t have been bothered to get out of the way again. I guess being in France this long has really gotten to me - complaining about the seating arrangement on the train now!
Once I arrived in Brest, I walked to my Airbnb and fell asleep almost instantly.The next morning, I had planned to go explore Brest a little, but couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed, I just continued to stay warm under the covers. I could hear the protests outside from the train station and hear the light drizzle of the rain against the window, I just stayed in place. Once I finally got the energy to get out of bed, I took a quick shower before heading to the pharmacy to get some cold medicine to deal with the stuffy nose I had. I quickly realised that the strike at the train station meant that the busses were not running and so I had to find my own way to the small village my internship is in. I called a cab and had them come out to my Airbnb to take me the 30 minutes to the village of Le Conquet (which translates to English as the conquest).
Le Conquet, a small village in Bretagne right on the coast of the Iroise Sea is a village in France - not much else. It has a beautiful hotel, which I intern at, on the very beautiful coast (when it is sunny enough to see it). Away from the coast, the village is ugly and boring. There is one store, not a grocery store, but a convenience store. The store does not sell full size bottles of shampoo, and barely has any fruit, just oranges and apples, some vegetables, and about five aisles of food and basic housekeeping items. Only 6-packs of toilet paper, and 4-packs of yogurt. The shopping scene isn’t very great out here. There is also a salon de the, similar to what we would call a café in North America. I have only taken out a pastry from them once, but it was very nice. I’ve been told that the salon de the is very nice, but I have failed to go since the days off that I do not go to Brest are always rainy and I hate going out in the rain.
In retrospect, I’m not sure why I chose to do my internship in Bretagne if I don’t like the rain. It is almost always raining here. Bretagne is known for its rain, grey skies, and gloomy feel, and it definitely delivers on it. The days that it is actually sunny here are soooo nice, soooo nice. I can’t wait to see the sun again. This week I checked out the Tuesday market in Le Conquet. I was warned that during winter the market is quite small and not very eventful. The warning was right, especially with the rain - but it was a cute little market. Definitely smaller than Yssingeaux, where I was last, but still nice. I didn’t end up buying anything but still enjoyed the market.
That’s it for the updates for now. I’m going to aim to send an update next week or the week after with the details on my internship and how that’s going - hopefully with a visa renewal on its way, but that’s a story for another day.
Until next time, happy adventuring!