Sans commentaire – Monday morning

Just how cold is it in Paris?

Cold enough this weekend that chairs on the Rive Gauche were known to dress appropriately. 

Yes. Cold. Really. Cold.

Indulging in Pavlova

I don’t get homesick often.  But when it does arrive, it is a gentle creeping in, riding in on the back of clouds that blow in from the Atlantic.

Pounding the rain-soaked footpaths of the Rue de Rivoli this morning had me dreaming of Oz, of balmy summer evenings sipping champagne by the harbour, oohing and aahing at fireworks  in the company of friends.

I’m off to toast those friends from afar and indulge in a slice of oh-so-Australian summer tradition, Pavlova.

Happy Australia Day.

BERRY PAVLOVA
4 egg whites
2 cups castor sugar
2 tsp white vinegar
4 tbsp boiling water
4 tsp cornflour (maizena)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp vanilla essence

FRESH WHIPPED CREAM TOPPING
1 500 ml thickened whipping cream (crème fermière)
Icing sugar to taste

BERRIES
500gms fresh berries, when in season (or in winter – frozen ‘cocktail de fruits rouges)
1 tsp castor sugar sprinkled onto berries and lightly tossed

Preheat oven to 200C. Line a 30cm (12in) tray with baking paper and draw a 20cm circle on the paper. Place the sugar, boiling water, vinegar and egg whites into a large bowl. Beat until mixture is stiff enough to hold it’s own peaks. Sift the cornflour and baking powder into the bowl, then add the vanilla and fold in lightly.

Pile the meringue onto the baking tray within the circle.  Place into the oven and reduce the heat to 150C for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat further to 100C for an hour longer. After that, turn off the oven and leave the Pavlova in the oven overnight to dry out.

To serve, top the Pavlova with the whipped cream and the berries.

High tide on the Seine

I’d heard about it, read about it, and today, saw it for myself. Without doubt, the waters are high on the banks of the Seine.

A request from my princess for some ‘girls only’ time saw us meandering through the well-dressed crowds in the Marais as we headed to the Maison Victor Hugo.  Having climbed the stairs and trodden the floorboards, our one disappointment was the restriction of access to the bibliotheque.  How we both would have loved to have walked through the doors and marvelled at the 11,000 books that fill the shelves. To smell the musky accumulation of hundreds of years of dust, and be surrounded by the ghosts of those who were once close enough to pass their time in the company of such a great man. 

The library let down was short-lived in duration though.  The sun was out, reflecting golden tones on the sandstone by the Seine where the water is lapping at the feet of curious onlookers.  With barely a chill in the air it only seemed fitting to finish the afternoon with additional poesie, chocolate ice-cream with crème Chantilly at Berthillon. Poetry indeed.

Escape to the winter grey of the Calvados

There’s no escaping the grey in France during winter. 

From October through till April, everywhere you look,  cloud lingers low and there’s a dampness in the air.   The sun makes the rarest of appearances, her warm glow tucked away, out of sight.  People wrap up heavy to match the sombre colour of the skyline. 

Not someone to be bothered by winter, I embrace it.  My favourite season came like a built-in wardrobe with coats and chunky scarves, gloves, pink cheeks that glow when everyone returns to the warm air from the chill outside.  Hot chocolates and vin chaud, cider and galettes.

It also happens to be the time when I most prefer the ocean.  And when it all comes together like a Saturday trifecta, there’s only one thing to do.  Jump in the car and head to the Calvados.  Unlike the summer rush, it’s mostly void of tourists. With the exception of a few cars making their return to the UK, there are no crowds lounging about the harbour, no long waits to get into one of the quaint, fisherman restaurants.  The waters are calm, the beaches littered with pebbles and shells waiting to be collected by pint-sized fingers.

The grey slate buildings blend perfectly with the sky, the ocean, the lunch, and the quiet harbour.  It’s a little corner of heaven, and my favourite escape.

Reflection

Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people. – Albert Einstein

Here’s to closing off 2010 remembering the good, the not so good, the loved and the lost. And, to holding the memories tight in our hearts.   

Wishing that 2011 takes us one step closer to world peace than the questionable effort of 2010.

A little French Christmas chocolate cheer

As the saying goes, the best things in life aren’t free.  Whoever thought up that line never finished it off properly. I’m a firm believer that should have done have been ‘the best things in life aren’t free, they’re chocolate’. 

In France, chocolate is an art all to itself, and there is no time more ideal to discover it than during the festive season when the creations of the master designers adorn the windows and leave me drooling for more.

Wishing everyone much Happiness for the holidays.