I know this great little place in … Bath, UK

N5 Bistro

For those of you who know my blog, I made a post a few months ago about a very cute city in Scotland : Saint Andrews.

As we moved to England, we found so many gorgeous little places to visit. One of them is the city of Bath. We did a short stop in Bath recently and went for lunch to a very lovely place called No. 5 Bistro. The address is: 5 Argyle Street, BA2 4BA Bath, England
The restaurant serves French food, and they do it very well. Simple but fresh and tasty ingredients.

My boyfriend got a Chicken dish (Poulet Breton on the menu) and it was a great choice: a cooked chicken breast served with apples and a crème fraiche and cider sauce. Very tender. So good!
For my starter I got an original Prawn and Chorizo cassolette served with a creamy bisque (special of the day). Never tried before, but it was a nice combination of flavours. My main was a risotto: rice was cooked as should be, making it nicely creamy, but to be honest, when I saw my boyfriend’s main, I immediately wished I had taken that too 

The food presentation was nicely done: colours, food originally arranged in the plates. The mushroom soup was served in a cute little marmite, on a wood tray with pieces of fresh bread.

The menu comprised of traditional dishes; and given how great the food was, I asked if the chef was French. Guess what, he is actually from Romania!

The ambiance and the service were very nice too. Food came timely. The young waitress was kind and friendly. The background music was some old style French music. For a moment I could have thought I was in a Bistro in Paris!

We had a very nice time and foodie experience. We will come back!
I hope this post gave you good reasons to go to Bath if you are in the surroundings. If you want to spend a nice moment, No. 5 Bistro is made for you. Let me know what you think!

Picture is not mine. I got it on the restaurant website : http://www.no5bistro.co.uk/

 

 

An alternative way of exploring Paris

There are many ways of exploring a place: walking by the streets and getting lost (the best way to explore for me); biking; bus tours (never done but this way does not appeal me too much); or even by simply browsing books or on the internet.

In this post, I’d like to share a video so you can discover a bit of Paris in a “not so usual” way. It is an excerpt from a short movie (“It was a date”) directed by Claude Lelouch, a famous French director.

What a like about it, is that you can see the streets of Paris, empty and calm; and here and there some of the landmark touristic places.

This reminds me when I was living in Paris, in one of the biggest avenue straight on to Place de l’Etoile and the Arch of Triumph. When I was leaving home early enough in the morning, movie makers or photogrpahs were shooting in the streets, when the city was still quiet and clean. It was a nice way to start the day… before jumping in the crowded Metro and spend 8 hours in the office.

I hope you will enjoy it!

“Home is where the heart is”

Home is where the heart is

Over the past years of intense travels, the most frequent questions I’ve been asked is “Where’s home? ”. Believe me or not, some days, I was not sure anymore about the answer.

Is home France? Where I was born, where my family lives….

Is home UK where my boyfriend has been living and waiting for me?

As tough I can be about France, it is HOME. I was born in France. My family lives in France. The love for food and life I have definitely come from France. My native language is French and France is home for many other reasons I listed here.

Last year, as I put an end to my crazy glob trotting life, I finally “settle down” in Scotland. Meaning : lived at the same place for more than 6 months in a row. Even if the transition to a calmer pace was a bit of an adjusment for the first months… I liked it! Seven months later and dozens of cardbox and suitcases packed and un-packed –  we ended up in Bristol, UK. I guess the Skies did not want me to settle down too fast ! 🙂 And surprisingly enough, after less than 2 months in Bristol, I told myself “this could be home too.”

Is this something I should feel bad about? In times I miss France, I would probably say – yes. But for all the other days, I embrace the duality and ambiguity of where “home” is for me and when the “where is home” question comes, I proudly say “I am French but live in UK”. As if I could not dissociate both “homes”.

I was recently browsing books and came across a quote from Pliny the Elder, which is the nicest and most poetic way of putting words on the way I feel today: “Home is where the heart is”.

There could be as many “home” as places one feels linked to…Isn’t life lovely ?

What I’ve learnt since I travel (2)

Not all those who wander are lost

Recently I was reflecting back on the last 4 years of travels I have been through.So many lessons to be learnt from travels. I thought I would share some bits and pieces with you.

1. After travelling abroad, I know how to say “Exit” and “Toilets” in multiple languages. My journey to being polyglot has just started ….

I tend to travel relatively “casually”, meaning I am not reading guides or making intensive research on internet. Sometimes I probably should, as when I arrived in Prague and took the tube for the first time, I realized the alphabet was totally different from European one. My sense of orientation which is naturally not very developed got even more challenged at that point.

For those of you who went to Prague. Did you know that in Czech, Exit is Výstup ?

I did not and for a few minutes I wondered how I would make it for the coming 6 months. Needless to say how relieved I felt when I recognized that “walking guy” on the signalization : the international pictogram for Exit.

It is almost the same story for the toilets…

All jokes aside, by travelling I learnt to live outside of my comfort zone. I learnt to be flexible schedule wise, and in my way of thinking. Flexible in my ability to adapt to new situations even if I was not speaking the local languages. Surely, travelling has played a big role as I entered the “adult” world and learnt to be independent and grown up.

2. Travelling challenged my perception of the world

The level of comfort and relative safety I took for granted as I grew up in France got completely challenged as I started to travel.  When I arrived in Brazil and was told I should not withdraw money from ATM in the street, or avoid wearing pricy clothes or jewellery… it made me realize that one should never take anything for granted. It taught me to appreciate what I have, and increased my culture awareness. Besides being careful and safe which was priority number one, it raised my curiosity to understand the world around me.

My experience in Middle East was also an interesting one. I was surprised by the size and the magnificence of the buildings, places. It was a daily race between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to know which of those 2 cities would have the “highest” or the “biggest” in everything they would do. As beautiful as the Eiffel Tower is, her high is by now well exceeded by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

What I like about travelling is that every experience is different. The purpose of travelling for me is not to compare a country with another one or decide which hotel was the best between the one in Ireland and the one in Mexico.Travelling taught me to enjoy and live in the moment as it stands.

3. The more you travel, the better you will be in mental calculation …

Thankfully Europe has its own currency ! Else we would still be trying to convert French Francs to Italian Lira…. Though most travellers will have to convert back to “local currency” at some point… Whether it is to make sure there is no over or under paying situation for example. I am sure I got it wrong from time to time. I recall being almost yelled at by an (American)  taxi driver when I paid the right amount that was on the screen in the car : I did not know I had to tip… I will speak about culture awareness in another post : I was in my learning curve phase.

I also remember the gigantic smile of one of our taxi driver in Budapest when I tipped him. I just realized afterward I had been very generous. Maths has never been my favourite subject 🙂

4. The world will open up to you or you will open yourself to the world …

By travelling, we build ever lasting memories. We live moments that make us not totally the same as we were before. When I arrived in Prague, I was 23, and have never been abroad for more than 3 weeks. I was in a country where I could not speak local language, where I did not know anybody. Cherry on the cake : I did not dare speaking English because I was afraid one would laugh at my accent.

At that point I realized I had 2 very simple options : keep on being shy and take the risk of having a social life close to zero, or go ahead, speak the best English I can, and mingle with locals and expats. I took option 2 and I met a girl who is one of my best friend today. When I speak about Prague, I still have glitters in the eyes and a lot of funny memories. There is so much to say about this experience. After 6 months spent in Prague, this experience changed a part of me. This Czech adventure is one of the many “stones” that makes the person I am today.

5. “Not all those who wander are lost”  – JRR Tolkien

I which I could have been the author of this quote but Tolkien did it before me 🙂

It is not because I like travelling and I am always looking for the next trip to take that my life is unbalanced. My passion for travelling is not fed by something I am trying to “escape from home”.

We travel because we love it.

Because nothing is ever the same again. Each experience is unique and resourceful. Simply because…

Credit for the picture is not mine. I got it at the following site : http://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/80961407/wander-ii-paper-print-inspirational

My love letter to London

Some encounters can change a lifetime, whether it is a person, a place, an experience. London troubled my senses and will be forever part of my memories. But the same way it can take time for some friendship or love stories to take shape and reach a “serious stage”, the way I feel about London did not happen effortlessly.

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The first time I came to London, I was around 12. Our English teacher was brave enough to embark across the Channel with a group of over excited teenagers. What I remember from this visit was: the 99 ice creams, Top Shop from Oxford Street, and the Speakers corner in Hyde Park. I cannot recall if the superficiality of my memories was due to a lack of attention (too busy flirting at the back of the bus), or if it is because we only spent half a day in the city. I do not think one would be able to clarify this mystery but I can live with it. 🙂

9 years after this expedition, my mum and family offered me a 5 days trip to London. I will always recall I cried when opening the envelop and founding about the present.

London

This second trip to London was great. Despite being panicked at the idea of speaking English with TRUE native speakers, I very much enjoyed the city and to finally explore it as it should be: Feeling the magic of Covent Garden, feeding squirrels in Hyde Park, walking in the colourful streets of Camden town and getting lost in Stable Market. Going to check Harrods’, stopping at Notting Hill gate, walking along the mall to see Westminster, saying hi to Big Ben, singing “Dancing Queen” during the Mama Mia show in Leicester Square… At that point I did not know this would be the beginning of an everlasting passion for this city.

3 years later, I was given the opportunity to work and live in London. This time was the one.

London is the city where I fell truly madly deeply in love, and in that same city, I also learnt that love and growing up hurt even more than what an early 20’s year old would think,

London is the city where people in the Tube do not give you the death look if you stumble upon them as you lose balance when the train moves,

London is the city where people know how to party hard: dancing all night, laughing out loud, drinking too much, feeling alive,

London is a city where streets are noisy, where people regroup in front of the pubs as soon as nice days are back, drinking Pimm’s from time to time,

London is city where you can hear English spoken with 10 different accents, making it an international but somehow exotic place to hang out,

London is the city where buses are red, cabs are black, and parks yellow when daffodils suddenly spring in April…

London is a city where being different can set itself as a “way of life, “

London is the city where one still feel the effervescence of the 70’s and 80’s when rock bands were true ambassadors of sex drugs and rock’n roll…

London is the only city that makes my heart beats faster as soon as I my feet touch its ground,

London is a city that made me grow up, the city which taught me what love and life are about,

London rocked my life. London is a king of magic.There can be only one…

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Credit and copy rights for the pictures are mine,

Scotland landscapes are not only made of 50 shades of grey

Among the list of adjectives one could define Scotland; many people like to call it “rainy”, “grey”, “cold”.

After living on and off in Scotland for more than a year, I confirm about the rain, but I would not reduce this country to its “challenging” weather.

Scotland is a country where nature rules. Offering amazing landscapes, whether you go on the country side and get lost in the mountains, or close to the sea shores. Those little gems are not generally visible right away. They reveal themselves to the curious and adventurous one.

In today’s post, I am introducing you one of this adorable places: Saint Andrews.

Saint Andrews, besides being THE Sacred place for golfers (and the place where Prince William the Duke of Cambridge studied)  – is a tiny lovely town set up nearby the sea. I particularly like the walking path extending along the beach, making it the perfect place to go as an after brunch walk, for example.

What makes the charm of Saint Andrews is the harmony of the buildings, the Roman architecture and the streets layout, making it a tiny cosy town. In Saint Andrews you can find multiple shops and boutique to keep you busy for an afternoon, ranging from local coffee shops to bigger international brands.

Saint Andrews – host of one of the most prestigious golf resorts – offers a range of hotels with amazing Spa amenities, massages, and other pampering services.  

For all the above reasons, I would definitely recommend this city for a week-end escape, to relax and get refreshed.

On top of it, Saint Andrews has amazing landscapes.

Saint Andrews is green. Bright green.

The green of the priory welcoming the ruins of the Saint Andrew Catholic Cathedral. A vestige of what is known to have been the largest church built in Scotland

The green of the golf courses, welcoming each year thousands of passionate golfers, whose dream is to put a foot on the Old Course or to simply visit the town hosting one of the most prestigious golf tournament:

Sain Andrew

Saint Andrew is blue. Deep blue.

A deep dark blue result of the waves shaking the sea,

A deep bright blue when nature is good willed and let us enjoy a clement weather

Saint Andrew is a city that makes one realizes the high potential of wonders in Scotland, and confirm that Scotland landscapes are not only made of 50 shades of grey.

Sain Andrew 2

Credit/Copy rights for the pictures are MINE

The secret life of Walter Mitty….

The_Secret_Life_of_Walter_Mitty_1274874

It would not be true if I were telling you I always run after planes. It also happens I stay at home, having low key week ends. I recently took the opportunity to go to the cinema and one of the movies I watched was The Secret life of Walter MItty, by Ben Stiller.

The movie trailer was smartly made and immediately caught my attention:
– Sean Penn is part of the casting,
– The trailer made me thought the movie is about travels and adventures,
– There was something which reminded me of Love actually somehow: the possibility of a love story despite heroes with life, personality and destiny that were not meant to cross.

Before going for a movie, I tend to read about the plot but never the critics. I want to be able to make my own opinion.This proved to be a good idea for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty as the movie got overall average critics and ratings.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a movie I struggled to opine one. 20 minutes after the movie began, I asked myself whether I liked it or not. Then the alchemy (I guess) or the American “block buster magic powder” made the rest. I was lightly charmed with the plot – mainly because it involves travels.

To me, Ben Stiller did a great job to capture the emotions and the beauty of landscapes, with a very special mention for Iceland and Nepal. As we spent a charming 5 days stay in Iceland last year, scenes were filmed in a way one could almost hear the “noise of silence” of the Icelandic landscapes. That same silence we experienced when taking a road trip within the Pingvellir park, during the Golden Circle adventure. (I will make a post about Iceland in the coming weeks – as this country is simply GORGEOUS and full of surprises)

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Music and songs were brilliantly picked, making a perfect match between landscapes, scenes, and feelings. I particularly loved Space Oddity by David Bowie and Kristen Wiig. It felt as if someone came through the screen, picked my hand and took me to Walter Mitty’s world. At that point I realized I would start to like the movie.

Where the movie can be challenged is about the “too much fantasy” arising in some situations : a bit over the top and simply not possible in real life. Those were the instances where I asked myself If it was a good pick or just a “goofy” movie.

What I did not know is that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is originally a book, and that there is an expression called “The Walter Mitty Syndrom”, used to describe people – often intellectual – who indulge in fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs. So this may well be an excuse to these goofy scenes….After all – Ben Stiller is not known to be an actor playing the register of Pedro Almodovar nor Woody Allen’s…. (Zoolander, Dodgeball and Meet the parents speak for themselves.)

Anyway, it was a very nice time and I was pleased when the friend I invited to come with mentioned even a week we saw the movie, that she really liked it.

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Leaving you with the Space Oddity song….

Copy rights for the picture of Icelan Pingvelir are MINE ! 🙂

The picture of The Secret Life of Waler Mitty was found on the site chicagonow.com

Bucuresti… A mysterious stranger

Bucarest

2,000 Km away from Paris,

After we flew over Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and Hungary … we were about to reach Bucharest. A new exciting life experience and opportunity to build ever lasting memories.

I cannot not define the way I feel before I fly, and when I get into the planned destination – but to make it simple: I am all over the place !Like a kid in a candy store. Travelling is in my blood.:)

When I told colleagues and friends we were off to Romania, they all sounded intrigued but interested in knowing about the country.

I knew about Romania to the extent of what is broadcasted on the news,

I knew about Romania for the extremely tough times people went through back to the late 60’s until early 90’s.

I knew about Romania and the wild dogs hanging out in the streets. I thought this was a legend until I saw it for real. I‘ve always been told not to try to pet them. And now I understand why…. Those dogs have nothing in common with the cutty Beethoven you see in movies. Those are real “gangsta one”, believe me.

I knew about Romania, and more specifically Transylvania as the land of Dracula.

When I arrived, my boyfriend had a great surprise for me :
A road trip across the country side, exploring Dracula’s castle and enjoying local food. The ideal for a relaxing week end. Could not wait to start this “Indiana Jones of modern times” adventure.

Though one of the thing one cannot control is weather.As we woke up on Saturday – Bucharest and the square in front of the hotel turned into a real life size snow globe.
Locals highly recommended not to go outside as pavements and roads were covered with ice. Needless to say, Dracula could enjoy his sleep – the “chasing vampire adventure” had to be postponed. Well – “If life gives you lemons: Make lemonade!” 

The funny thing in such a situation is to end up in a country and a city we had never been before, without being able to explore the streets, feel the ambiance and local culture.
It was a very low key and relaxing time. We ended up going to the restaurant, and hanging out in the corridor of the hotel – where an exhibition about Scotland was on.
Yes – I left Scotland 2 days before and ended up attending an exhibition about Scotland in Romania! Quite a funny coincidence, thinking about it !

At the light of the situation I am not able to share much about Romania’s landscapes and food delicacy, but it still remained a nice experience.
I liked the fact people were trying hard to speak English and make us feel comfortable. There was no chance that my American boy and I spoke Romanian, so it was very enjoyable.I felt thoughtfulness in the way we were welcomed.

What caught my attention though was a delicate “distance” – maybe shyness – a gentle feeling of restraint. Even if the country is the only one within the extended Eastern Europe region with Roman roots, I felt a bit the same as when I lived in Czech Republic: a subtle way of retaining emotions.

Before I end that post – do not get me wrong – we know that life is not as easy all over the city and country. Thinking that country reality is what one live when going at the hotel would be erroneous. We were aware we had to remain smart and mindful about where we go/ what we do.

Bucharest, Belle Inconnue. It was a short and almost “virtual” experience. When looking at the streets, end-less avenues, the gaps between luxurious properties and decadent buildings… there is so much to be seen!

Bucharest…So close and yet you remain a mysterious stranger

The kind driver who gave me a lift to the airport advised we come back in May. Count on it.

La revedere Bucuresti !

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Credit for the picture goes to my American Boy ❤

What I’ve learnt since I travel…

Passport

I do believe that in any life experience there is a POSITIVE learning opportunity (even if the positive side is not quite obvious from time to time).

As I started to explore the world, I had “key learnings” I thought I would share with you.
Some of them are a tiny bit exaggerated, but you may well identify yourself in others… 🙂

1.Travel light. Take the bare minimum. Aim to have a list of “must have” for travels

Ask my boyfriend – when I travel I used to take “my home” with me.

YES – “I may need that self-tanning lotion over that 3 days stay. (Even if I never put some the rest of the year)”

YES – “In case the weather changes over the week end – it is a safe option to plan on having 3 different outfits per day… Just in case… You know…. ”

YES – “I need that pair of red flat, the high heels boots and my shiny pointy black shoes….Just in case”

NO – “A black hand bag does not fit with every outfit: if I wear a brown scarf : it would be a FASHION FAUX PAS to accessorize with a black bag” 🙂

Though – as I am growing older – I tend to be more pragmatic and realistic. It was about time ! 🙂

All of the above were a bit of exaggerated, but some of you may see what I am talking about.

2. If you are European : forget about the passport filling contest with non European friends

My boyfriend is American : While he gets a stamp almost everywhere he crosses a border, I have been multiple times across Europe since I got my passport : it is even not half full.

3. US customs agent tend not to be the funniest (but some are still super cool – though)

The good news is that if you have a French accent – they suddenly seem to be a bit more welcoming. I guess it brings them a bit of an exotic touch in their day.

4. Some people can tell where you are from  – even if you do not mention your nationality 

Even if I am not a big fan of saying there are standard behaviors/ways of looking that makes a nationality more or less easy to recognize, It tends to prove right for me.

Example : when arriving at the customs border check in Dublin – I had not say a word or given my passport yet – I was welcomed with a warm “BONJOUR MADEMOISELLE”.

More recently, I was on the phone with the hotel concierge in Romania. I was speaking English – with the less French accent possible… at least I thought… The guy stopped me after the 2 words – saying : “ we can speak French if you want”.

Alright… I was maybe betrayed by ZEE FRRRENCH ACCENT for that one.

For those who wonders :
NO – I do not wear a Beret, or a French baguette every where I go 🙂
NO – I do not have a braid of garlic around my neck.
NO – It is not written on my forehead ” I AM FRENCH”

Last but not least – YES – I do take a shower on a daily basis ( just precising, as several American people came to me asking seriously if “is it true French people do not shower daily but instead use perfume ? “)

So , I guess there is something about my “Frenchness” that may be noticeable!

5. Communicating with people is possible even if you are not familiar with local language. It is a matter of willingness to make it happen

I still remember when I lived in Prague. I could not say a word of Czech.
Even after the 6 months I spent there, I could only stick to the basics “ Hello”, “Thank you”, “Please”.

Though one day as I was doing groceries, a lady started talking to me. When she saw my look – “OMG I could not undestand a word of what you just said” – she understood I was clueless. After a signs discussion, it came out that she just wanted to tell me I had very nice hair. It was a very funny situation, heart-warming and also a confirmation that when putting a bit of effort – it is possible to make connections.

Smile and laugh are international ways of communicating a state of mind, to make others feeling comfortable and welcome. Never be afraid of using it, as it is very communicative!

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Credit for the picture is MINE ! 🙂

About travelling experiences

travel-is-the-only-thing-you-buy-that-makes-you-richer

I was caught by the travel bug “relatively late” but as it kicked in, I can surely say it got me forever.

What I have always loved about travels is this opportunity to really “sink” into the local culture.I have been lucky enough to explore many countries and this gave me the opportunity to think about sustainable travels and culture awareness.

I recall when we were  in Athens last year : 10 am; 35 degrees C – on the Acropolis, admiring the Parthenon. Probably more than 10 different languages were spoken on a hundreds square meters place. Who would have guessed – back in 447 BC that the Parthenon would become one of the most visited site in the world more than 2000 years later?

Anyway … Back to the story…  We were among the crowd of people, ranging from one taking selfies, couple smiling for a souvenir pictures, and the one working on getting a new facebook profile picture. Let’s be clear – I got half a dozen of pictures taken there as well… 🙂

After we were done, a group of youngster asked us to take a picture of them.  As my boyfriend was about to press the button to immortalize the event  – they suddenly deployed their national flag, which was now gently floating in front of one of the most ancient vestige of Greek and Antique culture.

The fun started when this massive lady kicked in, blowing her whistle, asking them to fold the flag and to delete the picture they took. She even asked to see the camera to make sure the picture was deleted. Quite an interesting moment but also a good example of the type of tourism I try to stay away from. 

Even if I like to call myself a “world citizen”, I want to make sure when I come in a new country I exchange about local culture ( and when I can  – about mine). Above all – I want to respect the welcome I am being given, which include not putting on the French cliché show.

The same way when I am invited at someone’s place I would not break in like a hurricane as I step in the place, but rather wait I am told to enter further. Depending on situation I would bring a “little something” as a courtesy and for the pleasure of sharing and making my guest happy… That is the behaviour I try to have when travelling.

As I was on my way to Romania – a new place for me – I was 100% excited, feeling agitated – and asking myself “trivial ” questions : How Bucharest is going to look like? Are people friendly to tourists ? Will I make myself understand given that I speak French, English, Spanish but surely not a work of Romanian…. (Answers will come in my soon to come post on my Romanian adventures !)

Once landed, I crossed the long corridor, heading straight to the exit to finally get the adventure started !

And you – what is feeding your love for travels ?

The picture in this post is not mine… I found it at the following blog

http://www.chrystal-clear.com