Tag Archives: Paris

Vacation Post – Paris #2

15 Jul

A 10- day vacation is the just right amount.

More than a week and less than a fortnight.

It is just the right amount to fit a few places but not too many. Its good to be flexible like that. Exactness is exacting, I feel. Vacation stops feeling like one when one tries to over plan it to its last detail.

What is the stuff you have to plan and what of it do you leave it to luck, you ask?

Stuff that needs planning –

*Flight tickets

*Hotels

*Some must -see  and must -do stuff ( 40% of the itinerary should be planned)

With a toddler, you need to have a fair amount of certainty else it can turn into a chaotic situation.

Stuff that you can leave to luck-

*Some can-see and can – do stuff ( 60% of the itinerary should be ”at -the-moment” plan)

*Places to eat

*Places to shop

The discovery along the unplanned part of the trip is where the actual learning happens about the culture, people, the geography and the food.

Paris

After our Amsterdam stint, the next leg of the trip was a 5 day rendezvous in Paris. Recently, my biggest influences in planning this trip to Paris have been this book, this movie , this other movie about Paris and this grand movie too. And oh this blog and this blog!

Otherwise, I have always been fascinated about travelling to Paris just to see the Eiffel tower. A birthday under the shade of the Eiffel tower sounded dream -like.

We took a flight from Amsterdam into Paris which was short and uncomplicated. But upon landing, we were shocked to find that KLM hadn’t sent our baggage in the same flight. We were left with some hand luggage and a baby stroller. We were sent off by the airport officials, with a small kit of toiletries to explore Paris. With absolutely nothing except our passports and cash we roamed the streets of Paris with a bitter-sweet feeling. One thing about the officials in France; you can’t rush them neither can you urge them. You have to smile politely and pray that you get your baggage back as they promised. I prayed. Very hard.

The following day, the bags were at our hotel as promised.

It was cold and blustery even though it was April end. I wanted to know why this city is the most visited city in the world. I had read about it, heard people talk about it and here I was with my baby, hubby and a dear friend to explore and experience the magic of the city. Did I feel the magic? Well, at certain times yes, and many others absolutely not.

The Predictables

A large portion of my 5 day trip to Paris consisted of visiting popular tourist destinations such as the Louvre Museum /Musée du Louvre that houses the enigmatic Mona Lisa. Right outside the museum we spent some time gazing at the children sailing their little boats at the  the spectacular Tuileries Garden  – Jardin du Tuileries.

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On exiting Jardin du Tuileries from the Palace de la Concorde end with its unmissable Obélisque, we stepped  into the majestic Avenue des Champs Élysées. Flagship outlets of world renowned French and international high fashion, culinary and retail brands welcome you on either end and it calls for immense will power to resist the urge of not stepping in one of them.

 Eiffel Tower – The whole world travels to Paris to see the iconic Eiffel tower. Every few seconds, I felt like pinching myself because it felt surreal to be in the presence of this magnificent engineering marvel.  The sight of the Eiffel tower by night is a scene out of any romantic movie based in Paris. It is here that I found my happy place. I sat staring at the tower and wrote in my little note book about how thrilled I was to be here.

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Pastries and confectioneries – Every street in Paris has a crepe /pancake stall. The enticing aroma of browning butter on the hot skillet is everywhere; in the parks, in the malls, streets and railways stations.

McDonalds has a Pâtisserie and so does every single food outlet there is. It felt like a city that had macaroons for breakfast. Paul’s was ubiquitous and you could see people flocking Paul’s waiting for their pain au chocolat, tarte sucre, millefeuille and croissants. I was gobsmacked to see how much of these flour-butter-sugar-chocolate combination was savoured everyday by the French people  and yet everybody was far from being obese. How do these French women eat these delicacies and still look their best?

Well, the answer to that is very, very simple!

‘Portion size’

Tiny portions of your favourite treats = makes your day+ don’t affect the tiny waist size.

The Unpredicatables

Freebies

Shopping in Paris was an extraordinary experience. Everywhere I went and bought stuff, I got a lot of free stuff. There is no bigger incentive than free stuff in this world. I feel free stuff is better than a discount  or sale. Free stuff is like a surprise gift.  Free perfume samples, free mascara, free key chain and lots more. At 33, there are  hardly any surprises in life. Life is humming away at a predictable pace. That pace was pleasantly disrupted by this shower of freebies that I welcomed gratefully.

Make -over

At the posh, Avenue des Champs Élysées, I got my pre – birthday make -over at Sephora.  I  walked into Sephora, not knowing what to expect. I saw 2 people body painted and crystal studded. I stood there fascinated as hundereds of women swarmed the store to buy their favourite beauty products. Soon I was whisked away fora  make over. I sat at my seat petrified about how it would turn out. My only make up experience was at my wedding which remains my most painful dressing up memory. But I was in for a huge surprise.

At the ripe age of 33, I discovered the magic of the mascara. I learnt from the experts about applying make-up for the very first time in my life. All these 33 years ( actually 32, since it was my birthday eve when I got the make-over done) I lived without knowing the joys of applying make-up and shopping for beauty products. How utterly shameful is that!!!

I was spoiled rotten by my hubby and friend at Sephora. They got me tonnes of make up (which now, I know how to use) and a special make up brush with my name inscribed on it. How cool is that!

sephora- make over

sephora- make over

A baker’s paradise Ofcourse, I knew Paris was about all the sweet stuff like macaroons, pastries and tarts. But I was in for a shock when I visited G. Detou and Mora to get my fill of baking supplies and ingredients. Such a fantastic array of the best of best should be seen to be believed. I could have spent 2 whole days just looking at the display. I got myself the best cocao powder, baking chocolates, vanilla extract, micropline zester, pastry brush, lavender extract, vanilla pods and other good stuff.

Mora for baking apparatus

Mora for baking apparatus

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Disneyland – Ideally, this should fall under the ‘Predictables’ section. But Disneyland is an experience. I don’t know if magical is an apt word. You need to be there to feel it. The vibe, the air and the concept brought alive all our childhood fantasies. Undoubtedly, my daughter enjoyed it but I have to say we, adults may have enjoyed it a wee bit more.

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Latin Quarter-  Latin Quarter remains one of the best kept secrets of Paris. This bustling district boasts of innumerable eateries with an array of cuisines from Greek gyros and Turkish kebabs to Mexican Burritos and Indian curries. The place has it all.  You can venture around the area and visit some of the famous landmarks like the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Fontaine Saint-Michel to admire the gargoyles and the French Gothic architecture. The Shakespeare and Company bookstore, made famous in the recent Hollywood movie Julie and Julia is also located in the vicinity.

Fontaine Saint-Michel

Fontaine Saint-Michel

My birthday – when you are in Paris, there isn’t much you need to do to ‘celebrate’ your birthday. Every second of the day seems special because you are trying to absorb every bit of the magic and wonder that the city is throwing at you. I played out the day in my head so many times before I actually traveled to Paris but nothing prepared me for the joy I actually felt.  An Italian lunch and several glasses of wine later, we strolled by the river Siene. Under the Eiffel tower, I sat in a state of trance unbelieving. The icing on the cake  (actually a tart) was a lime and lemon tart from Ladurée and a box of scrummy macaroons.

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What I missed doing in Paris

* I booked for a macaroon baking class and couldn’t go because I chose to visit the boring Palace of Versailles.

* Watch the Moulin Rouge and the Lido and instead I bought a lot of place mats with their pictures on it.

* Drink more wine (because you can never have enough)

* Buy tulips and press them in my books to treasure the spirit of the blooming city for a long, long time.

* Eat good food. I was surprised that most of the meals we had weren’t really the memorable sort that you would expect to in France. It was not just with the French food but all cuisines. A shocking lack of flavour, I recall. Only the confectioneries and the sweets passed the test.

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Latin quarter

Sigh! It is the end of the post #2 and I miss Paris with such a fierceness. Thank God for these photos and my diminishing memories, as they are the only ones that will help me relive the enchanted moments spent in Paris.

All photos by Namit Bhatia – @namit93

The Happy Birthday Post – A Guest Post by Gayathri

29 Apr

While you read this Post, I would be at the Eiffel tower realizing my long-cherished dream of celebrating my birthday in Paris. But my blog shall not be neglected and for that my dearest friend Gayathri offered to do a  guest post for me. She knows how much I love my desserts where puddings and custards are my absolute favourite. She being the wonderful friend that she is, Gayathri made lovely Panna cotta for me to celebrate my birthday in her own sweet way. I will come back from my trip and come over to your place Gayathri to have my share of the luscious looking Almond- Honey Panna Cotta.

Thanks so so much Gayathri!

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So without any further delay, I hand this space over to Gayathri.

So finally, here is it. Its been over a year that Anita has been asking me for a guest post. Please don’t jump to conclusions that I have been so held up and busy that I didn’t have time for the post. No, the actual reason is, ( confession time) I was not confident enough to post on this wonderful blog. I was just pushing my luck and postponing hoping that she would forget about it but she has a wonderful memory. So here I am with my post hoping that I do justice to her wonderful style of writing and her photography. I couldn’t think of a more suitable occasion than her birthday to do this.

Anu  has been the biggest motivator for my baking and blogging pursuits. It was about a couple of years ago that our common friend Ankur casually mentioned about Anu coming to Bahrain during one of our conversations when I was in India on vacation. I was already in Bahrain for a couple of years at that time having moved here subsequent to my marriage. When I was back from vacation I was surprised to see a mail from Anita along with her number. I was very hesitant and apprehensive at first. But I dialled the number and we haven’t stopped speaking till then. (Wait, this is just to say that we have been friends ever since. Please don’t take it literally. I had been thrown out of my house just for the telephone bill). I think many of her friends will agree with me when I say that she is  one of the sweetest and the bestest ( well , this is grammatically wrong but when you describe friends, you can safely ignore grammar) person one can have for a friend. ( Cue for Anu to get me a lovely gift from Paris). But honestly Anu, I really mean it.

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I hope you have a wonderful birthday In Paris atop the Eiffel while I celebrate by eating this Almond Honey Panna Cotta. I finally cracked how to use agar-agar and this is such a simple recipe to put together. You can prepare it the previous day for any party and the I assure you that the guests will be blown over by the taste.

Almond Honey Panna Cotta (Adapted from Easy Vegetarian)

Ingredients

 1.5 tablespoons agar –agar

3 tablespoons hot water

250 ml thick Yoghurt/hung curd/Greek Yoghurt

200 ml thick cream

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

5 tablespoons honey

¼ cup powdered sugar

¼ cup ground almonds/almond meal

Method

  1. Mix the agar-agar in the hot water and keep aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Take the cream in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix till smooth
  3. See if the agar-agar mixture has dissolved in water else, just heat the mixture till it forms a gelatinous mixture. Add immediately to the cream mixture.
  4. You can refrigerate it in the bowl or transfer it to ramekins for about 4 hours or even overnight.

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Happy Birthday, Anu and thanks for being there for me always ( though I cannot claim the same for you..:).

P.S: Sorry about the juvenile pictures.

P.P.S: If the panna cotta doesn’t set well, you can serve it as a pudding and it will taste still as yumm.

P.P.P.S: My panna cotta hasn’t set well as much as I would like it to set. But for all those puritans read it as the recipe for Honey Almond Pudding.

P.P.P.P.S: I guess this is the last time Anu will ever ask a guest post from me.

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I dream a dream..

7 Jan

Day dreaming is my passion. But I do not mention it anywhere in my resume, because I am afraid, people would think I am stupid or crazy. I day dream all the time. I have done it in my school classrooms, college classrooms, at work, at client meetings, even while watching a movie or taking a walk in the park.

If am watching a movie, I have already lost the plot because,  I have turned into the protagnist and doing my own stuff. Or if I am watching MasterChef, reality based, singing or dancing programmes, I am the contestant who has won the competition already and cashing in on the advantages of being a celebrity and the likes. It is so crazy that I refrain to discuss this even with my own husband out of the fear of being judged as vain. And mind you, my husband is my best friend, I tell him everything.

But this is completely out of my control. I can actually see myself standing there at the sidelines and watch my imagination take flight whilst watching a travel show on the Travel and Living Channel. The best is, when I read. These days I follow a food blog by  David leboitz (http://www.davidlebovitz.com) who is a chef, basically a baker who has written books on desserts, cakes, and about living a sweet life in Paris. It is a wonderful account and his style of writing has such a thrill about it that I see myself doing Julia Child at the local markets of Paris.

This addiction of day dreaming can be quite frustrating at times, because: Continue reading

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