Category Archives: French Finds

Saumur Part two – Wine Country!

Saumur Wine Country

Saumur Wine Country

The Loire area is surrounded by the vineyards of Saumur such as Chinon, Bourgueil, Coteaux du Layon, etc. which produce some of France’s finest wines, and as I soon learned: Bubbly!

As we drove through the Loire Valley in the Saumur area, it was like driving through one postcard after another.

beautiful vineyards

beautiful vineyards

Loire Valley, France

Loire Valley, France

Saumur is famous for its grapes that are similar to Champagne grapes; and using méthode traditionelle the wine makers make exceptional sparkling wines that rival Champagne. I even found one wine maker with my surname – Grenelle (French spelling of Grinnell) which was established in 1859. How exciting!

I love tiny bubbles!

I love tiny bubbles!

Louis de Grenelle wines

Louis de Grenelle wines

AckermanOur first night in Saumur, Catherine took me to visit an even more historic winery, Ackerman; and lucky for us, we happened upon a special event.

There was music (three separate groups throughout the evening), art, games, education, food and of course wine tasting. Plus, the vineyard is on the hill above and the winery is actually in caves below. We walked around the caves and visited the exhibit on making exceptional sparkling wine in the traditional method.

Pouring the bubbly!

Pouring the bubbly!

Wow - these are some big bottles!

Wow – these are some big bottles!

Catherine relaxing in the cave.

Catherine relaxing in the cave.

Enjoying some sparkling wine!

Enjoying some sparkling wine!

Method Traditional

Méthode Traditionelle

Music in the wine caves

Music in the wine caves

Cool art display with champagne flutes

Cool art display with champagne flutes



Filed under Art, French Finds, Travel, Wine

A Home Away From Home

Time to find a Home

Time to find a Home

It’s 2013 – this is the year I plan to move to France. I’m so excited! As I am making my plans, finalizing budgets, and getting organized, I started looking at apartments to rent.  What fun!!

At first I searched the Internet for short-term private apartment rentals. I was pleased to find many options to choose from, and was glad that they also had reviews from travelers who have previously rented the apartments, with comments on their experience with the process, the apartment and the neighborhood.  The only drawback I found was the rental fees make it a little pricy for just one person, unless I just rent a studio, which I’m certainly open to.

Last night I was watching a Rick Steve’s travel program, and he mentioned renting a room in a home as an option for accommodations.  I hadn’t even thought of that.

So today I started searching the internet and found


The basic membership is free, and you can set your search criteria for a specific neighborhood, duration of stay, type of room-mate (age, male/female, student/professional, smoking/non-smoking, etc.), and type of accommodations you require. So far I found quite a few potential rentals to choose from.

Now I can’t wait to finalize my actual travel dates so I can confirm where I might be living!

Have you had any experiences with renting a private apartment in Paris (or other European cities) for an extended stay (3-6 months) or have you rented a room or otherwise shared accommodations with a private party?  If so, I’d love to hear your feedback as I continue my planning for my  exciting sabbatical.

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Filed under French Finds, Inspiration, My Dream, Travel

A little bit of Paris in San Francisco

On Saturday, my good friend Wendy took me and a couple of girl friends to see the Jean Paul Gautier exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. In a word, it was AMAZING! Not only were the ensembles gorgeous, but the manner in which they were presented was ingenious. Gaultier partnered with the Montreal-based theater company Ubu Compagnie de Création in the design of 30 animated mannequins who talk and sing in playful and poetic vignettes ~ and whose eyes seem to follow you.

The show: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk will be on exhibit at Herbst Special Exhibition Galleries at the De Young Museum from March 24, 2012 through August 19, 2012.

This dynamic, multimedia exhibition includes 140 haute couture and prêt-à-porter designs created between the mid-1970s and 2010, along with numerous sketches, archival documents, fashion photographs, and video clips that spotlight Gaultier’s collaborations with filmmakers, choreographers, and musicians, most notably Madonna.

Dubbed fashion’s “enfant terrible”, Jean Paul Gaultier launched his first prêt-à-porter collection in 1976 and founded his own couture house in 1997. Emerging as a designer in the 1970s, he developed his own dress codes that reflected the changing world around him. Despite the gritty and sometimes controversial context of his collections, the clothes remain beautiful, superbly crafted with the finest dressmaking and detailing skills.

Gaultier, who enjoys mixing the historical with the avant-garde in his fashions, used similar tactics with his dresser made of luggage and a highboy made of attaché cases.


I would definitely call this a MUST SEE Exhibit. My friends and I left inspired and planning a trip to the fabric store to purchase some materials to try our hand at designing something fun.

Visitors are strongly encouraged to purchase tickets in advance. Tickets are neither refundable nor exchangeable.

For Tickets and Information
Adults $20, seniors 65+ $17, students with current ID $16, youths 6–17 $10, members and children 5 and under free.

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Filed under French Finds, Inspiration, Travel

Planning for Paris

An International Move

One of the best resources I have found* to help with moving to, or living in Paris, is FUSAC (France USA Contacts). This free magazine contains classified ads and advertisements for the English-speaking community of Paris and the surrounding area.

FUSAC is best-known for ads offering employment and housing. However, this periodical contains ads for all aspects of the English-speaking community: music, dance, theatre, courses in English and French, childcare, cars and household items for sale, meeting places, and much, much more . . .  Just what you need to settle in and feel at home.

FUSAC is a wonderful resource for expats, but you don’t have to be in France to receive it.  Before you make the move you can download this free publication (in a pdf format) from their website ( Or if you wish, you can purchase a subscription and have the magazine sent to your home.

In Paris, you can pick up copies at restaurants, businesses, and bookstores frequented by English-speakers; as well as embassies and consulates.

* Thanks to my Parisian friend Catherine.

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Filed under French Finds, Inspiration, My Dream, Travel, Words of the Wise

Kitty goes to Paris

My Parisian Kitten

As you may recall from a previous post, I was worried about my kitten named Caillat while I was away in France on a two-week holiday.  Well, during the last week of my stay, I found my kitten’s twin at Galeries Lafayette, in Paris. I couldn’t resist, so I adopted her straight away. Her name is Chat Myranda.

It was just like having Caillat with me. My friend Catherine and I toted Chat Myranda all around Paris and took photographs everywhere we went. Not only were we constantly in stitches, but she seemed to bring a smile to the faces of all who came across her path.

Here are some fun shots taken by Catherine and I around Paris…

Our first photo!

Peeking out of Catherine's Bag

Getting a little hungry!

Playing in the Dressing Room

Chat on the Moon

Chat at les Invalides

Climbing Eiffel Tower!

Tipsy Kitty


Filed under French Finds, Inspiration, Travel

The Most Amazing Cup of Coffee

The French Press

Coffee. I love my morning coffee. I love the aroma lingering through my house as I’m preparing for the day ahead.

I love my after dinner coffee. This flavorful elixir just completes my meal.

I own a Keurig 1-cup Brewer, and it’s nice and convenient for a quick cup of joe before heading out the door in the morning.  But on the weekend, or when I have a little more time to relax and enjoy a couple of cups of freshly brewed coffee, I bring out my French Press and the magic begins.

The French Press

A French press requires coffee of a coarser grind than a standard drip brew coffee filter, as finer grounds will seep through the press filter and into the coffee. French press coffee is brewed by placing the coffee and boiling hot water together, and leaving to brew for a few minutes.

Brewing the Coffee

After about 4 minutes, simply press the plunger to trap the coffee grounds at the bottom of the beaker.

The flavor of a French pressed coffee is so rich because the coffee grounds remain in direct contact with the brewing water, and the grounds are filtered from the water via a mesh (instead of a paper) filter, therefore coffee brewed with the French press captures more of the coffee’s flavor and essential oils (which would have become trapped in a traditional drip brew machine’s paper filters.)

I don’t need to add milk/cream or sugar. It’s delicisous as is. Just pour a cup and enjoy!

~ aww ~

As with drip-brewed coffee, French pressed coffee can be brewed to any strength by adjusting the amount of ground coffee that is brewed.


Filed under Cuisine française, French Finds

Easiest (melt-in-your-mouth) Chocolate Croissants – Ever!

melt-in-your-mouth pain au chocolat and cafe

My house smells like a Boulangerie (French bakery) this morning.

I just baked some fresh pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) and ~ I don’t mean to brag ~ but this was quite possibly the flakiest, tastiest, butteriest, chocolatiest pain au chocolat I’ve ever had ~ outside of France.

Easy chocolate croissants? You might ask. Yes! And I’m making this my “French Find” for the week!

I really can’t take all the credit for this amazing treat. If you are lucky enough to have a Trader Joes in your neighborhood and you enjoy chocolate croissants, then take a trip to their freezer section and look for their private label “4 Chocolate Croissants”.

Trader Joes Chocolate Croissants
These are not something you can just take out of the freezer and bake immediately, you actually need to let them sit out for about 9 hours and let them defrost and rise.  So if you would like to enjoy them for breakfast, simply take them out the night before, place them on a buttered baking sheet and let them rise overnight. You will be amazed at how much larger they become.
9:00 PM

frozen, ready to rise croissants

6:00 AM

By the next morning the croissants have tripled in size!

after 9 hours

For added color and taste, whisk up an egg and lightly brush onto the uncooked croissants with a pastry brush…

brushed with egg

Pop ’em in the oven (pre-heated to 350F) and bake for 20 minutes…

fresh out of the oven

Cool and enjoy…

for best results - cool on rack

Oh, and these are a great way to impress your overnight house guests – they will be amazed at your “cooking” abilities!

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Fake it until you make it, French Finds