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Friday, June 25, 2010


Ranked as one of France’s “les plus beaux villages” (most beautiful villages), Castelnou is located close to the Spanish border, approximately 20 kms southwest of Perpignan.

The village’s design is dictated by the sheer, jagged ridges of the rock on which it was built - set against the stunning backdrop of the Canigou, the Catalans’ mythical mountain. It is guarded by Château du Vicomtal, which originated in the 10th century and which over the centuries has been destroyed and restored twice. Ramparts were built in the middle of the 14th century to protect the village. They feature eight towers and you access the village between two of them.

Cars are not allowed inside the village at all (there is a car park outside the walls), you can’t see a single electrical cable, all the streets are still cobbled, and building is prohibited with any renovation work strictly regulated to stay faithful to the original materials and techniques. Here, you can truly pretend to live in the Middle Ages.

The local community is so small (only 70 regular inhabitants). Houses in the village are sought after and about half are second homes, mostly belonging to wealthy Parisians. Castelnou is a draw card for artists and artisans too, including jewellery-makers and potters who take their inspiration from the beauty of the village and surrounds.

Images courtesy of Trekearth and Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chocolat ...

Debauve & Gallais ... French chocolatiers ... mmm!

Sulpice Debauve, pharmacist to King Louis XVI and official purveyor to the French royal court, opened his first chocolate and tea shop on the left bank of Paris in 1800. In 1819 the company received the royal warrant as purveyors to the French court and was the official chocolate supplier of Kings Louis XVIII, Charles X and Louis Philippe. The company adopted their current name after Debauve’s nephew Antoine Gallais joined the company in 1823.

Introduced by Debauve, this range of chocolate "coins" was first developed for Queen Marie Antoinette in order to ease her distate for taking medicines. She was so delighted with them that Monsieur Debauve was commissioned to create an entire collection called the Pistoles de Marie Antoinette.

Their range of “Bonbons” – equally delectable! The bonbon assortments are encased in Debauve & Gallais' official trademark blue, gray, and gold embossed box and were handmade exclusively for royalty before finally becoming available to the public in 1913.

For the extreme chocolate fan, “The Louis XVI” is for you at just $900 USD (=$1,025 AUD). The Louis contains the Royal 70 assorted bonbons, Pistoles de Marie Antoinette collection, Les Annes Folles, as well as an assortment of bouchees, Carres, and Mini-Tablettes.

Don’t forget what else is on offer – Tea, which, according to their website, the Debauve & Gallais teamaster sources by “traversing continents, crossing oceans, and braving mountains to bring you only the rarest and the finest in your cup”…

Thé Marie Antoinette - Combination of a delicate China White Tea and White Chocolate

Images courtesy of Debauve & Gallais

Monday, June 21, 2010


I love Brit fashion. I love Brit winter fashion even more. I love it because I really can’t justify the gorgeous layering of knits, scarves, cardigans, jackets, more scarves, leggings, boots, beanies (and/or berets) in this climate. When I was in the UK last year, I came across the clothing brand Joules.

A UK-based brand, Joules Clothing “aims in promoting not only casual fashion and comfort, but also in upholding the British lifestyle”. It supports the one sport that has a big significance in the nation’s culture: horseback riding, with most of their designs being equestrian in character. Do these polo shirts conjure up images of a day at Royal Ascot where one might bump into a royal or two … Oh, is that you, William?

Brit tradition is also supported by Joules, with their current wardrobe highlighting the use of tweed fabric. Tweed can be casual, formal and street, or reserved and formal depending on how it is worn and matched with other clothes and accessories. I love Joules because it makes even the traditional look cool (ok, perhaps you only get away with it in the the UK, not Australia).

The best thing is – Joules Clothing is available online!!! And, they ship to Australia!!!
Yay, oh happy days!


Images courtesy of Joules Clothing (UK)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The story of the Macaroon

I was recently very spoiled on my birthday with a lavish French patisserie party - great on the lips, even better for the hips. We had some lovely macaroons prepared by Mulots Patisserie, but let me tell you about Ladurée - a luxury cakes and patisserie salon based in Paris, France.

Ladurée's rise to fame came in 1930 when Pierre Desfontaines, grandson of then owner of Ladurée Jules Chéret, had the original idea of the double-decker macaroon (macaron en français), sticking two macaroon shells together with a creamy ganache as filling – fifteen thousand of which are sold every day. With each new season, Ladurée pays tribute to this its most famous creation by creating a new flavour, currently Cherry and Apple.

Ladurée Macaroons collection:
Flavours that are permanently available: Chocolate - Bitter Chocolate - Vanilla - Coffee - Rose - Pistachio - Raspberry - Blackcurrant Violet - Caramel with salted butter - Red Fruits - Orange Blossom - Liquorice - Lemon
Seasonal flavours: Coconut - Mint - Amande - Spice and soft fruits - Chestnuts - Praline - Lemon Cedrat - Fig & Date

Desfontaines also opened a tearoom at the pastry shop. In those days cafés which were the exclusive domain of men. The tearoom was a big success with ladies, who enjoyed meeting in the freedom of the tearoom rather than their homes.

The Groupe Holder took over Ladurée in 1993, which was then beset with financial difficulties. Following the takeover, the company began an expansion drive, setting up pastry shops on the Champs-Élysées in 1997, followed by subsidiaries in London, Geneva, Monaco. Ladurée shops have also been opened in Tokyo, Dublin, Bahrain, Milan and Dubai.

I fear Adelaide will have a long wait …

Images courtesy of Ladurée and research Wikipedia

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Winter is upon us

Although, looking out the window today at the beautiful blue sky and sunshine it is hard to believe, but the chill in the air tells me it is so. My birthday falls in winter, and (as is generally the case with me) because I could never have it, I always wanted a pool party. Don't get me wrong, living in a mediterranean climate certainly has its benefits, but it makes the idea of snow and log fires all the more romantic.

I love the idea of cosying up under a rug, good book (and glass of red) in hand, listening to the crackling fire and the smell of burning wood. The below image has it all - chandelier, wreath, burning candles, rug, rocking chair, book, hardwood flooring and, of course, a cosy log fire.

A french ski chalet should also have it all, as seen here in the chalets of Les Contamines, France. Now, that's what I call a camp fire!

Images from sinwi and Les Contamines

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