Vegetarians Gone Wild

I’m writing this post from Lyon airport, having said goodbye to my lovely Brenazet family earlier today. They were so fun, loving life on their idyllic farm, eating amazing meals together every day and constantly learning and trying new things. It’s inspiring to find people who genuinely love their lives and don’t even feel like they need to holiday, because home is so lovely!

After a hearty breakfast of green smoothie and some buckwheat hazelnut porridge (awesome stuff), Mariken sent me on my way with a little snack pack and instructions to let her know when I arrive safely in London. Elza the dog jumped up and gave me a smooch too, which was cute.

I spent the majority of yesterday helping them set up a Mail Chimp newsletter campaign and linking it to all of their social media, which is the sort of thing that comes easily to me (it’s my generation) but can be a real chore for people. Always nice to know you’re really helping the people you stay with, because sometimes it feels like you are getting an amazing experience for nothing. Days filled with yoga, meditation, cooking, gardening, cleaning, and amazing food are the best working days EVER.

My last few days involved a lot of cooking, yoga, a trip to Mariken’s local ‘Old Lady Yoga’ (which I secretly loved, even if it was all in French and included lots of pelvic tilting), crazy thunderstorms, dreamy sunsets and much laughter.

Basically I’m just going to post a bunch of photos of food, because I cannot describe in detail all the things we made. Mariken has a spectacular kitchen and array of recipes, during summer she cooks for the guests every day so she’s a bit of a pro at making healthy food for many mouths.

Get ready to drool….

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Raw vege pasta, quinoa, garden salad
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Buckwheat and oat flour pastry, filled with silver beet and soft tofu
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Beetroot and Walnut Dip
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Bean Salad
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Plate of Goodness
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Red Quinoa- Stuffed Tomatoes
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Avocado & Almond Butter Chocolate Mousse
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Raw carrot cupcakes with cashew coconut icing, Apple cake.
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Smoothie greens! Yes, that is nettle.

 

Needless to say I’m going to miss having the means to make all that. But I have a bounty of recipes now. I sort of made up the chocolate mousse, so I shall share it with you. Mariken declared it the ‘best chocolate mousse she has ever tasted’, which is high praise.

Marvellous Mousse

To feed 2-3 people:

1 large ripe banana

1 ripe avocado

2 large tbsp almond butter

2-3 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp maple syrup/agave/honey or whatever your preferred sweetener is.

1 tbsp chia seeds

anything else you think would be tasty….

 

whizz it it all up in your blender, adjust the amounts to suit yourself, serve in little pots with a sexy adornment (I used cacao nibs). If you can wait, put them in the fridge for an hour and let the chia seeds do their thing.

You don’t need much because it is very filling, what with all the avocado and nuts.

Mouuuuthgasm!

 

A farewell sunset
A farewell sunset

Off back to London now, for birthday celebrations, family time and probably some MEAT. Funnily enough, today as I was leaving Mariken was cooking up one of their chickens. Usually they are vegetarian, but yesterday they discovered that one of their chickens was eating the eggs.

So they chopped it’s head off and made coq au vin. Waste not, want not.

Au revoir France! I still only understand a pathetic amount of your language (“inhale, exhale, left foot, right foot, relaaaax”), but I think that’s okay.

 

Mossy Bum

Ohhh boy, the weather in France has taken a turn for the chilly. My body is a bit confused, after spending a month in the glorious heat of Spain then reverting to winter weather. Thunderstorms, hail, rain, cold nights… But it’s secretly kind of nice, because it means we can LIGHT THE FIRE. And I love a good fireplace.

I have taken to wearing 70 percent of my wardrobe to bed, leaving 30 percent of my clothing for daytime usage. Needless to say, there’s not a lot of variety going on. Basically I just wear yoga clothes, a chunky jumper and some borrowed gumboots (or should I say, Wellington boots). But we watched a Ted Talk last night and the man giving the talk sagely noted that if all we do is follow fashion, we will never catch up with it, so we might as well not bother…..Right?

As I’m writing this I’m sitting by the fire in our little wooden chalèt, drinking some hand picked mint tea. We have had to do our yoga indoors for the past two days, because it is so gosh darn cold out. Basically, I’ve been doing a lot of baking and indoor work, like cleaning the gités, shifting books, helping with meals.

Over the weekend, whilst housesitting for the family while they were in Holland, Izzy and I made a delightful array of natural cosmetics, some practical, some not so much. Our toothpaste turned out a little funky, and Izzy is convinced it’s making her teeth go brown, which is sort of the opposite of what we were hoping to achieve. Our lip balm is a little bit solid, probably because the standard room temperature at the moment is much lower than average. Therefore the coconut oil is like rock.

We washed our hair with baking soda, made a nettle tonic (to promote hair growth and thickness), then conditioned with Apple cider vinegar. It actually worked really well in my hair, and is a whole lot cheaper than buying real shampoo. Apparently you have about two good hair days in the space of six weeks when you start doing this, after which your hair is MAGNIFICENT. Eyes on the prize Rosie, eyes on the prize. I feel a bit weird doing it, because I quite enjoy that lather effect that you get from shampooing your hair. With baking soda and water, you just kind of mush it around your scalp. It will take some getting used to. I added some essential oils to my nettle tonic to make it smell better. Because nettles don’t really smell that sexy.

We did naked yoga. Naked. I’m just gonna leave that sentence there. Take what you want from it….

I love this place, it’s like a haven of information and terrible jokes and shouting in Dutch and accordion playing and naughty escaping ponies. I love it when Ron makes a joke in English and laughs for a good five minutes at his own wit. Yesterday, when Izzy and I were moving shelves, he cried from the other side of the room “Easy does it! Oh! Oh! ……IZZY does it! Haha! Ha!” That man is hilarious. I love how Mariken calls asparagus ‘Aspergers’ and nutrients ‘nutritions’. I love how Igor farts so much that nobody even says anything anymore. He just lets one rip and everyone continues around him.

Izzy leaves tomorrow, after which it will just be me in my little wooden cabin, doing my strange breathy meditation all alone and sipping tea for one. I will miss the delightful outbursts of song and enthusiasm that happen whenever Izzy is in the room. She is like an excitable child who buzzes around doing a million things at once and is so inspired by everything and everyone, then exhausts herself and has to lie down for a while. Her enthusiasm is contagious, her art is amazing, I will miss that little chipmunk! She is so remarkably comfortable with being naked. Today we went for a walk in the forest, took off all our clothes, climbed a tree that hung over the river, and meditated… Oh what a sentence that is. Very nice indeed, aside from the extremely mossy bum.

Here are some pics of our weekend of housesitting and our very potent wheatgrass juice from our half day juice detox (we got hungry at lunchtime and there were pancakes, need I say more…). As Mariken says, there’s no point in juicing when it’s cold and you feel deprived. It will make you unhappy, and you want to feel happy. Wise words from a wise woman.

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Shots!
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Izzy, unimpressed
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Buckwheat pancakes, red cabbage coleslaw, dal
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Izzy and feast
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Eat the rainbow

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Raw vegan lasagne

Best. Day. Ever.

Wednesday was an action packed day. These Dutch people, they don’t mess around, they get things done. It’s invigorating and inspiring, and you are so ready for bed when the time comes.

The day began with some yoga and a meditation with Izzy outside our little chalet, which we have been doing every day. They say it takes 30 days to develop a habit, and I think I just hit that. Right now I’m loving the Sivananda sun salutations, probably because that was the style we were doing in Spain every morning. The meditation is the 108 breath meditation, which involves alot of heavy breathing which is kind of awkward…. But it sets you up for a very peaceful morning meditation.

 

Bums
Bums
Saluting the Sun
Saluting the Sun

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After that, we had our green smoothies and did some weeding and gardening. I am learning all about which ones are weeds and which ones are plants, which is quite useful to know. I needed to be taught, otherwise I would just go around pulling everything out because it “‘looks messy”… We went foraging for greens to have in our lunchtime salad, now I know that things growing all around our feet are totally edible and actually taste kind of good. Apart from some things which will make you ill, don’t eat those ones…

Then we ate lunch, then we made a raw apple pie for our dinner party that evening! Oh boy, it was good. Its free of.. gluten, dairy, processed sugar, and… meat. You would hope so.

Here’s the recipe, if you’re into that kind of thing. Or maybe you do not know how to work the oven, in which case this is perfect for you.
Raw Apple Pie
Base
200g ground almonds
150g dates, soaked, or a date paste
pinch salt
Filling
3 apples
1 cup dates, soaked
raisins
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
half a tsp ginger
pinch nutmeg

Blend together the base mixture in a food processor, press into the bottom of a shallow dish lined with baking paper. The mixture doesnt need to be around the sides. Blend the filling ingredients, press on top of the crust and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Put it in your mouth.

 

Cat and Pie
Cat and Pie

After making our pie, Mariken took Izzy and I on a trip to a nearby town called Chantelle, where there is a monastery with REAL NUNS, a forest and a river. Dreamy. We had a look in the nun shop where they sell all their homemade goodies, then hiked into the forest to forage some wild garlic for our pesto. I was expecting bulbs of garlic to be popping out of the hillside, but no, they are leaves that taste like garlic! Magnificient leaves! And pretty flowers that you can also eat. Oh nature, you never fail to amaze.

Then we found a swimming hole and decided to go swimming. Naked. Because there was no one around, and because we could. Initially I was like oh my word, I barely know these people! I cannot bare my flesh to them! Then I thought, meh. They can just deal with my awkward tan lines.

It was the shortest swim of my life because it was so GOSH DARN FREEZING. It literally took my breath away.

We drove home singing along to Bob Marley. Bobby never fails to capture the mood.

Mariken showed me how she works with her ponies without using a halter. They have seven ponies, all of them a little bit mischievious. They try to eat my gumboot on regular occasions.

Ponies
Ponies

That night we had a 3 course raw vegan meal with some of the guests – Auke, Saskia and their wee tot Shuart. I have no idea how to spell his name, but its pronounced as a combination of Stuart and Short. We had wild garlic pesto, raw lasagne and, of course, our apple pie. And wine, because whats a dinner party without wine? Then we had a soul shakedown party, which is essentially all of us dancing around and Auke the giant swinging around the pole in the middle of the room like a giant pole dancer. He is genuinely the tallest person I ever met. He has to duck to get in everywhere.

Shuart on his machine
Shuart on his machine
The Brenazet Family
The Brenazet Family

We made a bonfire outside and sat around making up stories. A pretty awesome day. Izzy and I are looking after the farm for the next 3 days while Mariken, Ron, Igor and Nikola go back to Holland for Opa’s birthday party. We are excited to have some quality farm time, make some exciting meals and walk Elsa the dog. This place is beautiful! Who knows why some of the photos are black and white and some are in colour…. I am too tired to figure it out.

Ron
Ron
Little guy
Little guy

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Brenazet france mei 2014 001 (217)

Brenazet france mei 2014 001 (221)

Brenazet

I am all settled into my home for the next 3 weeks; Brenazet, a camping and gités site run by a delightful, energetic Dutch family. It always takes me a few days to adjust into anywhere- figuring out what goes where, who does what, what is expected of you and how to make the horses go into their stables at night…. But I think I’m going to fit in just fine here.

I am sleeping in a little wooden cabin with another helper, Izzy, who has been here before and returned for a little while after a slightly disastrous helpx in the south of Spain. She calls this her home away from home, and i can see what she means, it’s so cosy and homey! Ron, Mariken, and their two sons Igor and Nikola have brought a touch of Dutch into the French countryside.

Our cabin has a log fire, a terrace with little chairs to sit in and read our books, comfy wooden bunk bed type sleeping quarters and a little kitchen to make tea and things….

It is a lot colder here than it was in Spain, I had to borrow a jumper from Ron to keep me warm. My first afternoon we took a trip to La Bosse, an amazing lake somewhere near here (so disoriented, who knows) and did some al fresco yoga. The last two days have been filled with gardening, tea, amazing organic food (including chocolate avocado mousse which is so good) , cleaning the gités, walking the dog, doing yoga in a paddock amongst the bugs and the animals, and reading my book. The yoga class was taught by Mariken, all in French, but I feel like I understood most of it- I knew ‘left, right, inhale and exhale’, and that’s pretty much all you need. I did find myself bending into awkward shapes to be able to see what she was doing on occasion. But yoga is a pretty universal language, and it’s always nice to see how different people teach. Outside yoga is the best, even if we did get a bit of hay fever.

Happy to be here, grateful for the peace and quiet of farm life, it reminds me of my childhood! And I have realised my fear of chickens pecking me to death has not lessened…..Mariken is the best cook, everything is so healthy but hearty and satisfying! Today for lunch we had vegetarian burgers, fennel salad, greens and herbs from the garden, and a curried cauliflower dish. We just had supper and she made a sugar free almond and rhubarb cake, so good!

Today we went foraging for flowers and for the lunchtime salad, I learnt all about the edible plants and flowers that grow amongst the grass. So if i am ever lost, I know I can just pick some plantain and I won’t go hungry! My mum would be so proud – yesterday I weeded a flower bed and a vegetable garden, wore gardening gloves, got stung by nettles, ate nettle soup, wore her giant purple jumper and then picked some mint from the garden to make tea. Mother, I am becoming you!

In the morning I’m doing my own yoga on our terrace, with Izzy for company. I missed it for a day and I could feel it in my bones!

Anyway, it’s probably about time I showered.

,

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Gités
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The stables
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Yoga with child
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Vege Garden
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My cabin
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Cosy (Hyggelig?)
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Bunk beds!

Olga and the Knight Bus

Ooh la la, what a journey. I was sort of hoping for magical experience similar to that of Harry Potter on the Knight Bus, and I was sorely disappointed.

After arriving in Barcelona yesterday afternoon, I killed time for a few hours in the Zoological Gardens then jumped on my 10 hour night bus to Lyon. I was hoping for a seat by myself and my wish was almost granted, until one person turned up at the last minute, all sweaty and panting, claiming that her plane was late and she had made a frantic dash from the airport to the bus. She squeezed in beside me, introduced herself as Olga from Russia (not even kidding) and went on to tell me all about her disaster in Morocco when her friend’s wallet got stolen by “the big thugs”. She smelt a bit weird and talked incessantly so after a while I got up and moved down the back to a spare row of seats.

Sleeping on a bus is super awkward, because there are little knobs everywhere that dig into your limbs so that just when you think you are comfortable something starts to niggle. I draped myself over two seats, which was a bit of a luxury, but I think maybe my bottom is too voluptuous because it overlapped when I curled into the foetal position and just sort of hung off the seat, threatening to topple off if I relaxed too much. Also, I don’t like to think about the fact that I had my face pretty much buried in the seat, for obvious reasons. I sort of slumbered for a few hours, fitfully, trying to ignore the Asian girl opposite me who kept tickling my feet with hers (I don’t THINK she meant to, but who knows really). I was woken at 5am by my dead arm.

The joy of travelling. I arrived in Lyon shortly after, desperately needing a toilet break. Apparently the toilets cost 50 cents and you have to wait until 6am, and it was only 5.15. I looked around desperately, then was forced to sit in the corner like a homeless person to try and charge my phone while I waited. Unfortunately the power plug did not function. So I got up again and waited in a line for a while, thinking it was a queue to buy tickets, until I got to the front of the queue and realised they were all boarding a train to Marseille. I entertained the idea of just going along with them, because surely there would be a toilet on board…

So I exited the queue in true Rosie fashion, ducking under the barrier and getting my backpack caught so that the barrier pinged back and almost hit the person behind me in the face.

By this point I was truly dying for a wee, but the toilets were still not open, so I went to the information office and inquired as to how I would go about finding the right train. I was informed that in fact I was in the wrong station and I needed to take a tram to the OTHER Lyon train station. So I did that. Twenty minutes later, I am basically weeing my pants, trying to get into the toilet at the other station, where you have to pay 50 cents but they only accept certain coins, and I have the incorrect change. I almost wept with the urgency and unfairness of my situation, so I decided the only thing to do would be to go and buy a coffee to get some change.

I returned 15 minutes later, coffee in hand, and realised I still had the incorrect change, so I charmed the toilet boy to let me in for free. It’s tremendously awkward trying to squeeze oneself, a large backpack and a hot coffee into one small toilet. I thought it best to avoid examining myself in the mirror, because I knew it wouldn’t be too pretty.

After a number of trains and buses, My hosts called to say they will pick me up from Vichy, which saved me several hours of train time.There was an elderly man hoiking at the other end of the train, two men who looked like pirates sharing cake out of a box, and a RATHER handsome French man who had dreads in his hair and was wearing a chunky jumper therefore I love him.

I have arrived safe and sound at Brenazet, and had to excuse myself this afternoon for a rather long nap, now I feel spacey! I am surrounded by lovely multilingual Dutch/ French/ English speakers and I am sleeping in a delightful little wooden house. Now we are off to the lake! There are also tiny ponies roaming about behind the house, weeing and frolicking…

A new adventure.

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Bueno.

Thursday was Zoe and Megan’s last day at Casa de Carrasco, so we tagged along on a trip to the Cardo Monastery, way up in the hills behind Rasquera, the nearest village. It’s on the opposite side of the mountain to us, and you feel like you are in a completely different country – our side of the mountain was ravaged by fire two years ago, so is a lot dryer, whereas the monastery side is lush and green.

The monastery was built by monks in the early 1600s, and has been used for various purposes over the last few centuries, most recently as a hospital for injured soldiers during the War. It has been abandoned ever since and now it’s crumbling into ruins – there is talk of it being turned into a luxury 5 star hotel and spa, which is sort of a shame but I guess it gives it another life…

The monastery itself is closed off to visitors, because it’s a bit of a danger zone….. But we climbed a fence and snuck in. Zoe camped there once overnight – I can’t imagine anything spookier.

We did a walking meditation up to the hermitage (where they rang the bell), and sat to look at the view and do a seated meditation. We got the feeling we were the only ones there, and we may well have been!

And today I left the lovely Carrasco, after three weeks of yoga, sunshine, good food and quite a lot of wind (both kinds, we blame the chickpeas)… Last night the wind was insane and I was all alone in a big safari tent, with the A-Frame threatening to collapse on top of me at any moment, but one of the other guests came to find me and invited me to sleep in her lovely little cabin with her, so I got an awesome much needed sleep. Stella the dog came to keep me company too, I think she sensed that I was leaving and wanted to get in one more night of warmth in my bed. Softest dog you ever patted.

I will sure miss the yoga and and the Spanish sunshine, and all the lovely people…. But it’s time to move on to France! I’m lurking around in Barcelona for a few hours, waiting for my night bus which will take me to Lyon, arriving there at 5.30am, which will be super fun. I hope it’s not one of those buses with broken air conditioning and smelly people. But I sense that may just be a given on all public transport…

Wish me luck! I have earplugs, an eyemask, a chunky book and a bag of almonds to get me through.

Here are some pictures from my last few days in sunny Spain!

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Megan and I, mastering boat pose
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The lovely Sarah, owner, host and amazing teacher
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Cardo Monastery Hermitage
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Zoe, inside the monastery
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Stella, my doggy friend
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View from the hermitage
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Dancers pose, inside the monastery

Gluten-free in Paris? The least of your worries.

Paris is awesome, but there are many a creepy weirdo. On Monday I was at the Citè Universitaire for a full day interview. During one of my nervous wee breaks, I was standing at the sink washing my hands when a man came in (shocked me at first, then realised that of course, the French have communal bathrooms). He stopped in his tracks, looked me up and down and said;

“Ooooohheeeee. Damn. Dammmmn. Can I say something?”

“No. No you can’t.” (Unfortunately I only said this in my mind).

“You have the most beautiful legs….” (not a common compliment directed towards me, so naturally I was suspicious).

“What’s your name, girl? Tell me your name, I want to get to know you better”…

I gasped and ran for the door, careful not to slip in the urinal zone.

Yes, it is a university and I understand they want to encourage equality… But seriously, sharing loos?

Also, who hits on someone in the bathroom?

Anyway, that was the worst part of my weekend in Paris, along with the two Spanish girls who thought it was okay to come into our hostel room at 3am, turn on all the lights, have a chat and take a shower… And also the Brazilian man who slept on top of me (not in that way, you naughty kids) and snored like he was suffocating.

Things were mostly really fun, and I’ll admit it was a bit of a foodie weekend. I think I enjoyed it all the more having lived off soup and salad for a month in Devon.

On Friday night we arrived late and the only food we could find was a tapas bar, so we ordered a few things. When they came out we were slightly disappointed – tiny salty fish with their eyes still in, a bowl of potatoes and a plate of cheese slices. I am very against eating things with eyeballs, but we washed it down with some vino.

Saturday morning we wandered the streets of Bastille on a self guided walking tour. In a guide book we had found this place offering buckwheat crepes in a little cafe in one of the neighbourhoods – I like to think it was our little secret but as it was in the guide book I guess not….. All their ingredients were organic, free range and locally sourced where possible.

When we got there it wasn’t open, so we came back an hour later and it was packed. We ordered crepes with cheese, ham, caramelised onion and an egg on top:

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Of course, tea in a France was extortionately priced so I just HAD to have an organic coffee. It put a spring in my step.

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We walked along the Seine, I gawked awkwardly at people engaging in full-on PDA’s and wrinkly old men running with their shirts off. I was weirdly jealous of people rollerblading in the sunshine – it took me way back to the days when I would don my roller skates and do laps in the garage with a broom. I would say I was “sweeping for mum” but I was really just imitating Pippi Longstockings.

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We walked around the gardens at the Louvre and found a nice spot for a nap..

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That night we went out for a Tibetan meal- I know, I know, we really should have had a French meal, but I’d never eaten Tibetan and there were little Buddhas everywhere so naturally I got excited.

The next day I awoke with excitement at the prospect of a visit to a local gluten free bakery. If you are ever in Paris and feel sad because you can’t eat their lovely gluten filled pastries, GO HERE. I had a blueberry muffin and a detox tea, because it was breakfast and I couldn’t quite handle the thought of a full- blown chocolatey tower. They also baked fresh bread on the premises, so I nabbed a few for our picnic later.

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Yum!

We walked for a while in the sun (I was mildly sweaty, such a HAWT day!) and eventually found the markets in Bastille, loud and crammed with fresh produce, old men yelling and small dogs. I found a friend on the ground, sausage, a fresh pressed juice (orange, carrot and ginger), and a man from a stall gave me an orange segment and said I was beautiful. Those frenchies, such charmers. One man asked us where we were from, and once I said New Zealand he just kept repeating it and laughing hysterically. We must have a reputation?

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We walked down the river towards the Louvre again, had our picnic, then decided to abort our plans to walk to the Eiffel Tower in favour of catching the boat. Despite being blinded by the sunshine (not a common problem this time of year), we enjoyed sitting down for a while and watching all the people on the banks of the river getting excited about spring. The Eiffel Tower is too big to get into my camera lens. You get the gist. I was there last year with friends and we climbed it; this time we just sat on a park bench and gazed.

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My lovely companion Sue left on Sunday night and I left our hotel to stay in a hostel for a further two nights. Cue snoring Brazilian and rowdy Spanish girls.

I had a job interview for a job with an active travel company on the Monday- it was a fun and exhausting day but I sadly didn’t get the job. It just obviously wasn’t meant to be! So I consoled myself with a green juice and some interesting reading in a famous Parisian juice bar. It’s called Juice Bar, just so you know.

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So basically, we went to Paris and ate heaps. Good times. If you’re heading that way, don’t worry about finding gluten free options, worry about the communal bathrooms and the old men. They’re smooth, with their oranges and their smiles.

Au revoir!