May 1st in France: Lily of the Valley

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On May 1st in France, it’s a tradition to offer a mini-bouquet of Lily of the valley to your loved ones. According to legend, while Charles IX and Catherine de Medicis were travelling in the Rhône-Alps, the knight Louis de Girard de Maisonforte offered the young king a sprig of Lily of the valley from his garden as a good-luck charm. Charmed by the flower, the king ordered its distribution to the ladies of the court every May 1st. However this is the traditional flower of the Parisian region/Ile-de-France since the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to the famous fashion designers who offered a small bouquet to all their seamstresses on May 1st. The working population was inspired by this ritual and in 1907, they replaced the symbolic dog rose with the Lily of the valley.

FR On offre le Muguet, un rituel convivial qui remonte à la Renaissance quand le chevalier Louis de Girard de Maisonforte offre au jeune Charles IX offre en gage de bonheur, un brin de muguet cueilli dans son jardin. Au début du XXème siècle, la fleur devint la fleur traditionnelle de l’ile de France, quand le jour du 1er mai, les grands couturiers parisiens offraient un brin de muguet aux petites mains des ateliers comme un porte-bonheur. Inspirée par cette pratique, en 1907, la population ouvrière remplaça la fleur d’églantine par le brin de muguet à l’occasion de la fête du travail. Merci à #actuelflors pour ce joli bouquet parfumé.

Souvenirs of September

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Have an immensely chocolatey day with authentic French macarons + Côte d’Or chocolate.❤️

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Received my order of awesome from Clarins. Just started using these products recently and they actually do something! | Les produits “made in France” et efficaces. Je suis convaincue! photo 2

Bought an old teapot (center) for my collection. Discovered that the painting depicts an English nursery rhyme we learnt by heart. Little Miss Muffet <3 | Acheter une théïère d’occasion et découvrir qu’elle est illustrée d’une scène de comptine anglaise. La reconnaissez-vous? photo 3

Tea time with Marie Harel (Camembert). photo 4

My heart is scattered in so many Italian places | Mon coeur est éparpillé en Italie.

Love in Locks

love lock it down

All the news tells you is how much hatred there is. Meanwhile in Paris, bridges are falling down with the weight of love. So, Love 1 – Hatred 0 | Presque tous les reportages parlent de la haine. En attendant, à Paris, il y a des ponts qui s’écroulent à cause du poids d’amour ❤️

Food Photography: Farm Foods

We discovered a local farm in our town by chance and here are the bio goodies we hauled in today. The “Ferme de Saint-Thibault Les Vignes” is a real treat for bio lovers. I hope you all have the chance someday, to try a heart shaped soft cheese, resting on a coulis of red berries. Yummy! The bio apple juice was quite delicious as well. This is our second visit to the farm and we’re not going to stop as long as they continue making the amazing cheese and yogurts :)
We’ve recently started integrating local and biofoods into the daily diet and turns out it isn’t as expensive as your supermarket chains want you to believe! A slice of divine ‘tome’ cheese, garlic and herb seasoned cheese, an assortment of yogurts, semolina pudding and fresh milk for 9,51 euros. It’s a small effort but worth supporting your local farmers. Cheers. 

Château de Chantilly: Hidden gem in Ile-de-France


Art, Architecture, Chandeliers, Theatre, Books, Parks, Hunting dogs, horses, swans or another world feel. If you like any of the afore mentioned things or all of them, then the Castle of Chantilly will not fail to charm you. Just 1 hour north of Paris, you can visit the last home of France’s kindest Duke, Henri D’Aumale. Why? He left his ENTIRE property to the French nation. Including all the 15,000 odd books dating to the medieval times and decades worth of art. And people should be able to consult the books for free :) The Condé Museum inside the Castle holds some of the world’s most priceless paintings. It’s highly recommended to pay for a guided visit if you want to see the magnificent private apartments of the Duke and Duchess. You can also appreciate the architectural gems for as long as you want, since the castle doesn’t attract as many tourists as it’s counterparts in Versailles and Vincennes. Put this place on your list of places to see before you die! You will not regret it! :) Promise.
Since the main hobby of Chantilly’s occupants was hunting, you can find lots of beautiful statues and paintings of hounds in different places in and around the castle.
Condé Museum
The Condé museum in Chantilly holds some fine masterpieces. It’s painting collection is the wealthiest in France after the Louvre. You can look for more details on the masterpieces here.

La Tribune
This art gallery is modeled after the Tribuna at the Uffizi in Florence. When you enter is multi-faceted room, you can discover painting of different genres. There are walls dedicated to the Renaissance, the XVIIth and XVIIIth century neoclassicism and romanticism. On the extreme left of my collage above you’ll find Vénus Anadyomène, a painting which belonged to the Duc’s older brother and which I really find intriguing. This painting by Ingres shows the birth of Venus and if you want to read more about the structure of the painting, then go here.  
The Chapel dedicated to Saint Louis

Les Grands Appartements:
Details from the Antechamber and Bedroom of Monsieur le Prince. Built c. 1720.
The Action Gallery or The Battle Gallery
The Monkey Room
The Monkey boudoir is definitely one of the most charming in the castle. According to the Castle’s sources the boudoir dates back to 1737. It’s covered with Christophe Huet murals of Monkeys and Chinese Maggots. The Monkey was apparently a very popular animal in the 18th century. The murals on the walls are extremely complex and it took the artist 15 years to complete his work, which is painted directly onto the woodwork.

Bold and Gold!

The Library:
This is my favorite place in the castle. I would love to be married here. Look at all these books! 
The Book Cabinet 
The Book Cabinet as it is called contains 19000 volumes, 1500 manuscripts and 17,500 prints. The oldest manuscripts dates back to the XIth century. The kind Duc of Aumale has given acces to the public to consult the books in the library and you can do so with permission from the curator. More details on the books here.
The Theatre Library
Another secret gem of Chantilly. You can visit the Theatre Library if you take the private guided visits. This library was built on the location of a private theatre. According to the Castle’s website, there are about 27,000 books here and has some of France’s oldest and most valuable books.

Les Petits Appartements:

Salon de Guise: Contains all family portraits.
Bedroom of the Duchess of Aumale.
Ceiling
This baby blue bedroom theme just took my breath away. Of all the furniture in the room, I loved the Queen’s canopy bed and the blue cradle. I told Monsieur S. if ever I have a child, this is the cradle I want! :) The bedroom is adorned with a very beautiful ceiling by N. Diaz de la Pena. Read here for more details.
Boudoir of the Duchess of Aumale
Purple is so gorgeous! Sigh!
The stunning purple of the Duchess’ boudoir and her Grohé Brothers piano are quite lust-worthy. According to the castle’s webpage, the boudoir was originally green but after her death, all the furniture and walls were covered in purple because purple is the colour of mourning!
Salon de Condé
This Red themed salon contains portraits of all the princes of Condé. There are 42 framed medallions on the wall, representing all the members of the House Bourbon-Condé. 

Bedroom of the Duc of Aumale with this spectacular desk.
Other beautiful details..
Beneath chandeliers.
Swan lake :) 
The Castle grounds
This was a really memorable day and I would love to go back again to Chantilly. They even have a equestrian show during certain months of the year. I have to mention how friendly and courteous the staff were. Whether it was in the restaurant, the boutique or during the guided visit, they were always very helpful to the tourists. 

We left Chantilly with our hearts filled with love for the Duc of Aumale who left this immense treasure to France. And not to forget our heads, giddy with the sight of gold and other luxuries :)

In the Alps: La Clusaz and Cheese and Crêpes

The French Alps! The food here is just so amazing and fatty. I love it. French people in the Alps are so kind and generous! This farmer just welcomed us into his cheesemaking kingdom. And the next minute we’re discovering the cheese making process for free from a very cute cheesemaker. This holiday just took a new turn  
Get a load of this caramel salted butter crêpe. Ahh! Not good for the heart, but so good for the soul!!

Provins 2012: A medieval celebration

There is a small charming town called Provins. It’s approximately 2 hours from Paris. 
 There are beautiful houses with cosy balcony overlooking little streams.
And there of pretty windows with pretty flowers, just how I like it.
There is also a medieval tower (?) called Caesar’s Tower.
And knights and ladies taking five just below. 

So yes we went here today and travelled back in time! Boy was it fun! A two day medieval fest takes places here every year in June. We had to pay a 10€ entry fee (it would have been 4,50 euros had we come disguised as medieval age people) and there was a variety of stalls set up and playgrounds set up with games people played in medieval times, also makeshift guillotine stands, along with concerts and everything was done by people in disguise! Folklore had transformed itself into a mixed reality because it didn’t seem strange to see Robin Hood texting or Merlin smoking a cigarette or the Witches buying hotdogs. All in a days work.

There were fun things to see and do at Provins. But the best of things was only heard. It’s been so long since I heard live Celtic music and being an ardent fan, this was a real treat! I noticed that the French bagpipes are smaller than their Scottish counterparts and the form seemed different too. The sound was the same magical one, of the sea, of legends, of fairies, of dragons, of knights, of damsels, of passion.
 There were men playing mandolins.
 And this artist in her medieval atelier.
 with her beautiful paints all over.
 This man who taught calligraphy and signed your name on bookmarks.
A parade was organized in the town and the costumes were really impressive. I can’t believe there are people who go through such an effort to sew these outdated sagasque clothes! It was a beautiful sight and kids just loved this. And I did too because they all seemed to step out of the fairy tales I read when I was a child.
There was the flag bearer.
 A damsel. I love all the colours in this photo. Makes such an interesting palette!
 This could be a knight or crusader. 
 A priestess? She looked so happy. 
A witch. Don’t you just love this woman’s makeup!
 The King leading his army.
Fancy pixie/jester shoes, which I wore in my childhood mental movies or the elves did when they came to visit.
A grandmom?
 Is that Robin Hood or a merry man?
 A Sultan’s Sultana?
 More knights.
 A really tall mythical creature.
 I have no idea what this instrument is, but it made beautiful music!
 Pretty lady and plus points for the person carrying her!
 Mascarade!
 The leper’s stare
 A woman grinch?
 Mythical creatures playing bagpipes..
 And there’s Robin again with Marian
 Some happy people of the court.
 A courtier from Brittany. He’s wearing the symbol of his homeland.
Ah, long trumpets to announce the arrival and the end of good and bad things. What an event! We left with refreshed memories of childhood stories read in books, of animations films that made us dream, it helped us understand that continuing traditions is a beautiful thing and of course legends will live forever.

Spring has come. Softly. Magically

We live in very confusing times. But Nature somehow tells us that simplicity is the key. We need to look for it. I’m glad Spring has come. I decided not to keep up with the confusing times and focus on simplicity instead. Hence, I decided I will chronicle Spring. And voilà my spring journal! :)
The spring animals you find almost everywhere in France. I love that cat who just waited on the side of this empty street!
A poor man’s horse :)
Les cerisiers, or as I call them, candy floss makers.
I see a lot of yellows. Personally, I don’t like wearing yellow but I love looking at it. It’s vibrant and energizing.  
Then of course you have greens. I love this colour. It’s soothing and poetic. These pictures were taken while walking in the forest on a cloudy day. Bliss.
Dew! I’ve been fascinated by these lovelies since a very young age and my grandmum said dew drops are the tears that nature weeps at night because mother nature can’t bear the loss of her sun :)
Some more spring animals. I love French cows. Unlike Indian cows, they seem so much more sturdy and well bred. Moreover you find them only on farms ;)
Cherry blossoms! sigh, every time them come along, they take my breath away..  There cannot be a spring without these beauties. 
Some more pretty landscapes. I also can’t get over Dandelions!  One of my favourite pastimes in the countryside is to collect as many of these as I can and set them on your verandah. It’s the perfect bouquet and they don’t wilt, they just blow away. 
Greens. Yellow. Blues. Whites. 
And of course the best rendition of spring. It’s the seaside. Look how gorgeous the skies are. It’s like nature planned to create the perfect canvas for man. With all the perfect shades of blue. Which no artist or photographer can truly capture. This was day the clouds came down to greet the seas. It was my happiest moment in Spring.

Sunday in Paris: Vincennes Woods

Spring is almost here. You can feel it all around you, the birds are here, the children are feeding the ducks, the waters are less icy and the paper boats are a plenty, the grass is growing again and the trees about to send us their gifts. Sundays in Paris are becoming lovelier by the week. Today we went to Bois de Vincennes. (bois = woods). The ambience was lovely. I met some of my favourite friends. The seagulls and the ducks :) It’s a strange sight to hear the cry of seagulls in the middle of Paris. It makes me nostalgic of the Normandy coast where I lived last year and the cry of the seagulls was a constant.

Conifer cones :) I remember the first time I saw them and decided I would use them in my pot pourri vase. I need to get around to that!
 Pretty leaves on vines.
 You look at the trees and can’t wait for more yellow to brighten the park.
 You’re happy to see the ducks after a long while. 
You look at the Saint Mandé lake and wonder if that’s a weeping willow in the distance. And indeed it is! :)
 Je suis un canard :)
 Cloudy day reflections mingle with the ripples, ducks paddle around hoping for crumbs.
 In the woods, poetry is everywhere. 
 Every move can be transformed into verse..
 I thought of these words when I saw this cute guy gazing away. When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park?

Blois + Reims + the New Year

Happy New Year and sorry people! I haven’t been able to update my blog because I’ve been snowed in with work, exams, stress, depression, home sickness etc. Life has thrown a lot of challenges my way lately. Let’s retrace our steps to the very beginning.

Paris showcased the most pathetic of decorations this season. The City of Lights clearly didn’t care to make an effort, and after watching the shabby decorations on television, I didn’t even bother making a trip to the Champs-Elysées to voir les illuminations.

Christmas was strange, far away from home. My tree was up in the beginning of November to create a festive mood. It did help having a beautiful tree and I love how sweet Monsieur S. was, to buy matching blue and silver ornaments, including candles and lights, to match with the tree.
This is the first time in my life I spent xmas without any of my family. Monsieur S’s family invited me to Blois to spend Christmas day with the grandparents. 

Blois
That was really sweet of them but it didn’t help me get over the homesickness. I’d choose a noisy-chaotic-over the top-hot-humid-beachy-Goan Christmas anytime over a subdued-freezing-classy-spiceless-French Christmas. I did like Blois though. It’s in the centre of France, in the Loire valley. We were there just two days and managed to see almost everything in the city. The Castle is a must-visit, it doesn’t hold a candle to the other castles in Paris but it has an interesting history and a guided tour is included in the price of your ticket.
In addition, there are interesting exhibits in the castle, eg. the display of eerily life-like gargoyles. 
But you can see some beautiful motifs and a variety of architectural styles nestled under a single roof!

The river Loire runs through the city and the view from the banks are spectacular especially at dusk.

Reims

I’m so happy that Monsieur S. and me are one year old together :) Still feels so good and so new. He took me to Reims, the capital city of the Champagne region. We visited a bit and then he treated me to a fabulous French lunch at the Brasserie Flo in the city center. I must say, after this meal, I began reconsidering how I felt about French cuisine!! :)

Reims is a tiny city and the most beautiful thing to see here is the Cathedral. It’s 800 years old and still so marvellous!! The kings of France were once crowned here. 
Look how lovely these window panes are. Some of these patterns were created by Marc Chagall himself! 
Over to the homefront now. I’m so thrilled that the Jaipur Literary Festival is finally  being given such great importance. And Oprah Winfrey in here to give it the boost it needs! I’m so proud of India for having organized the biggest literary platform in Asia-Pacific. Kudos! This is a huge step for the nation and I’m bursting with pride :)

I love Sunday: 5 things

I missed updating 5 things on sunday. Thankfully, the novelty hasn’t run out since Sunday and here are the few things that make me happy.

  • My latest baby came in a few days ago. This is the Voigtländer Vito CD. Made in Germany, 1960. This is my favourite brand of vintage cameras and I admire German quality because the camera is fully functioning as you read this right now!

  • I love tea. But I miss drinking hot “thé” (French), “chao” (Konkani), chá” (Portuguese), “chai”(Hindi) with my aunts and grandma on our balcão /verandah at home. 
  • Loved this! Move over Amélie, another masterpiece is taking your place! If you ever get to watch “Intouchables”, you’ll spend two hours of your life thinking how great mankind is and how happy the world would be if we just looked past our differences. This French comedy film stars two amazing actors, François Cluzet plays the role of a paralyzed Parisian aristocrat, who shocks his entire entourage when he hires a new home help, just out of prison; Omar Sy, inhabitant of the banlieue or ghettos of Paris. This film is based on a true story and it’s undoubtedly the feel-good film of the year. French cinema is really begininning to retrace it’s steps to glory. Bravo, je dis!

  • Who is this you ask? This is the man who’s taking up most of my time these days. Jules Vallès was a French author and journalist, known primarily for pro commune and anti-capitalist combats. So basically I have to finish reading as many of his books as I possibly can and present a 60 page memoir to the validation bureau. I love reading his works but I wish I didn’t have the pressure of presenting the memoir so quickly. Somehow takes away the charm of enjoying Parisian novels in Paris! :) 
    • Thanks to Monsieur S., I discovered this devilishly delicious cake called Kouign Amann (which mean literally mean “Butter Cake” in Breton, the dialect spoke in Brittany). The cake originated in 1865 in the town of Douarnenez, in the beautiful finistère region. 

    The dough used for this cake is similar to bread dough except that it has a lot of sugar sprinkled between the layers. Like all foods from Brittany, there’s lots and lots of butter too. As the cake bakes, the butter puffs up the dough and the sugar caramalizes creating this magical fusion for all pastry lovers. So yes, damn the diet. Eat what you love. STAY HAPPY!!

    Parisian Dreams.

     
    It takes nearly three hours from your house to Paris. Three hours before you can hug your chéri. Three hours before you can sip the hot cappuccino and bite into the macaron he’s holding for you at the train station. Three hours before your world revolves around two people alone. You pass your time by taking in the beautiful sunrise in Normandy. You dream of what new adventure you will have in Paris today. You dream of the tender nothings he’ll whisper. You dream of holding hands and walking down the same boulevards your favourite writers did.
     
    You love the precious sunrises, you see them so rarely because you always wake up late. You see the sunrise only on the day you’re heading to Paris. You love them. They hold all your Parisian Dreams. 
    And indeed you meet another charming and elegant Parisian. 
    He’s not really easy going, he’s classy. Oh those Parisians! 

    Spring has sprung!

    As cliché as that sounds, Spring has indeed sprung. France is marvellous during Springtime. The weather is perfect, there are flowers everywhere and the French seem a tad happier too. Amen. I have one more month left in Saint Valéry before my work contract expires. I’m sad and happy at the same time. I know I will be devastated to leave my students and this charming place behind. But another part of me wants to move onto bigger and better things. My heart is convinced that Monsieur S is the man if my dreams. He does everything my fairytale prince used to do. Believe it or not, he is the first guy to ever buy me flowers. At 23, that’s quite loser-ish to say but I’m thrilled that he’s my first :) 
     
    Our weekend was pretty low key. We spent the days exploring the town and were charmed by the flora coming to life all around us. There were so many hues of green and yellow, the entire coast seemed lit up!
     
    We love taking pictures of the sheep in the distance and flowers and ferns whose names we will never know. 
     
    I would love to live on a farm. Just to have a cute labrador, a funny looking goat and two fat horses. 
     
    Yellow and black.
     
    Yellow-ish Green.
     
    Yellow and Black again.
     
    Finally my favourite whites.

    Happy Spring Everyone!