Paris, je t’aime!

Last week I realised that I had been in Lyon for almost three months, making it the longest time I had been in one city for nearly a year. So, I decided to go to Paris for a weekend. It was a weekend of trials and triumphs, but overall it was quite triumphant. Trial one; it is two hours by train from Lyon to Paris, but I chose to go by covoiturage because it is cheaper. Covoiturage is basically like safe hitch-hiking,  it’s all done via a website (blahblahcar.com) where you put your to and from destinations and the date you want to travel and up pops a list of all the people who are driving there on that day and how much they are charging for gas money. Like I said, two hours by train, this does not however translate into two hours by car. I leave Lyon at 2pm and six hours later I arrive in Paris, after being stuck in a car with no heaters, a driver who refused to listen to his SatNav’s instructions and a woman who ate a twig as a snack (I am not even kidding).

Trial number two; I bought my metro ticket to get from my drop-off point to the hostel, I scan it through the machine and it doesn’t work, it reads invalid and I have no idea why. By this stage I am a little stressed out (being stuck in traffic does that to me) but to my luck, this is where the triumphs begin. As I am standing there a little frazzled a girl asks if I want to just come through with her on her ticket, super kind even though it is illegal, so I thank her but decline and buy another. Just as arrive at the platform the metro is leaving but the driver sees me and stops so that I can get on. Everyone says that Parisians are kind of rude, but that was two lovely ones in a row, maybe I was just lucky.

My luck continued the next day; the weather was amazing! (By that I mean it wasn’t raining) Which meant that I could spend the day wandering around Le Pere Lachaise cemetery without getting drenched. Pere Lachaise is one of the most famous cemeteries in the world, and as morbid as it might sound, it is also a huge tourist attraction. The cemetery’s attractions include the graves of people like Chopin, Moliere, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison to name a few. It also houses a number of World War Two memorials which, because we were there on Armistice Day, were covered in beautiful flowers and wreaths, making the whole experience somewhat moving and surreal.

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After an incredible day sightseeing, we accomplished number two on my list of must-do’s for the trip; escargot! Snails lathered in garlic butter; a French classic! In my opinion, cover anything in garlic butter and it is going to be delicious but I was really impressed by this. The texture is quite chewy, a little like overcooked mushrooms and the flavour is quite earthy, a bit like dirt, but in a good way.

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Next it was off home to rest my feet; a little blistered from my new boots. They say to never break in new shoes while in Paris but for some reason I felt like I was above this rule. I wasn’t. Sad face.

The highlight of the trip, aside from it not raining until the afternoon I left, was finding a delicious and adorable little Italian restaurant just under the Eiffel Tower. Gusto Italia is on the corner of Rue de Grenelle and Avenue de la Bourdonnais, right next to the Parc Champ de Mars. It is tiny but the food and service was amazing, we started off with a starter of courgette, carrot and mushrooms cooked simply in a bit of rosemary, nutmeg, salt, pepper and olive oil, served cold with freshly made bread, still warm from the oven and falling apart as you break it. A glass or two of imported Italian wine went quite nicely with the homemade pizza, lasagne and linguini. I wanted to ask for the recipes of everything, but on second thought that would probably not have been the right move.

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A dark chocolate mousse cheesecake for desert was probably a little too much, but irresistible. Obviously, we tipped generously, because that is what you do when everything is impeccable.

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So impeccable in fact, that I may have gone back there the net day for lunch before hoping on my train from Gare de Lyon in Paris to Gare Part Dieu in Lyon. Wrap your head around that little bit of confusion.

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say cheese!

As I was lying on the beach today in 31°C weather, under the cloudless blue sky, eating strawberry vanilla ice cream (Yes, this really is how my life works at the moment. I know, I am the epitome of glamour, the definition even. Check the dictionary, I’m there), I realised that it had been far too long since I had updated this.
So I made a mental note to fix this issue. I also begun to think about everyone that I left behind at home, and how they are probably all freezing right now as winter begins to creep in. As I chuckled at my good fortune of avoiding winter/laughed at their misfortune of being stuck in it, I knew what the perfect thing to make the cold weather seem not so terrible; Raclette!

Raclette is wonderful, it is a type of cheese which originates from Switzerland or the part of France on the Swiss border. It is also a dish made with said cheese that belongs to the same family as fondue, the machine that you use to make said dish with said cheese, and the party you throw in which you use said machine to make said dish with said cheese. Following?

machine editedA couple of weeks ago I went to stay with my friend who lives in Montpellier, most probably the cutest little city I have seen and maybe ever will. It’s about two hours from Marseille so I hopped in a car with a bunch of strangers (which is a lot less dangerous than it sounds since its all sorted through a legit website) and off I went!

Now, Raclette is meant to be a winter food, but I had never tried it and everyone decided that it was something I needed to experience right away. So, after a wonderful day of sightseeing I sat down for a life changing meal.montpellier collage

 Another great thing about Raclette is that it is so easy to make, providing you have a Raclette machine… Although we can easily get around that..

Step one: Boil some potatoes. Leave the skin on until after they have cooked so that they keep their shape. Do as many as you want, depending on how many people you are feeding and how hungry everyone is.

Step two that probably should actually go ahead of step one: Assembling your ingredients. This is probably the most time consuming part of the whole process. Slice and arrange whatever you want to eat with your melted cheese. Traditionally the cheese and potatoes are eaten with charcuterie; cured meats. We used ham, a couple of kinds of salami, a kind of blood sausage and some prosciutto but we also included pickled onions and gherkins to trick us into thinking we were being slightly healthy.  Oh, and bread, of course.SAM_0622

Step three: Melt your cheese. With the Raclette machine, the cheese sits in mini frying pans underneath the element. I am slightly stuck for ways you could do with without the machine but I guess that melting it in a normal frying pan could work, maybe, as long as it doesn’t stick to the pan and just make a terrible mess.

Anyway, while your cheese is melting put whatever meat you want to eat with it on the element (which I suppose could also be substituted for another frying pan). The element doesn’t need to be oiled or greased because the meat is so fatty anyway, so just slap it on there. Yum! While the meat is toasting and the cheese is melting, peel a potato and cut it into chucks in a bowl or on a plate and wait. When the meat is crispy, or just warm if that’s how you want it, take it off the element carefully and cut it up on top of the potato. Now cover it with the melted cheese and voilà!

Continue this until you’re full, the potatoes and cheese run out or until you pass out into a food coma.

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It is meals like this that make me dread the cold European winter a little less… just a little.