Under the Provençal Sun

On All Saint’s Day – known in France as La Toussaint – we ventured out of Marseille once again, this time to Aix-en-Provence. It’s the epitome of classy, understated chic: leafy boulevards studded with fountains, sunshine-hued buildings with wrought iron balconies and an undeniable Belle Époque aura.

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Les Calanques Me Manquent

More often than not, the mention of the French Riviera conjures up images of the famous faces of yesteryear sunning themselves in Saint Tropez, the world-renowned Festival de Cannes (Cannes Film Festival) and Mr Moneybags’ playground, Monaco. Glitzy goings-on aside, the Mediterranean coast is home to a wealth of impressive natural landscapes. Stretching from Marseille, France’s second city, to Cassis, a scenic fishing port, the Parc National des Calanques is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline I have ever set eyes on.

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Misleading Martigues

Knowing that Sundays in France are on par with bank holidays – in the sense that they’re hardly a hive of activity – we decided to take a little jaunt along the coast to Martigues. Nicknamed ‘The Venice of Provence’, the accolades were stacked high in Martigues’ favour and we felt an urge to see it for ourselves.

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Sunbeams and Sunburn

If there’s one major advantage to working in the education field, it’s the holidays – scattered throughout the year, they’re a breather from the continual chaos of term time and an ideal travel opportunity. Let’s rewind to the end of October when, after five weeks of teaching/ lecturing/ adult-sitting, I headed south to Marseille for the Vacances de la Toussaint and some unexpected sunshine.

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Apple and Cinnamon Crumble Cake | Gâteau Pomme-Cannelle

[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] After a balmy February, gales are now blowing ferociously in Lyon and it feels like the clock’s turned back a season or two. A couple of weeks ago, I was in desperate need of some creature comforts. (I miss England. Life abroad isn’t always a piece of gâteau.) Apple crumble was a staple dessert of my childhood; its cousin apple pie made a guest appearance every now and again, but my loyalty to the trusty apple crumble never wavered. Since kitchen supplies are – ahem – limited, I decided to combine the crusty crumble topping with a classic sponge. A light sponge topped with a (hefty) sprinkle of cinnamon crumble and a couple of layers of sliced apples were all it took to transport me back to the vast dining table of my childhood, devouring spoonful after spoonful of sugary apple-y goodness.

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Le Col du Grand Colombier

Cycling fanatics will know the Col du Grand Colombier from the 2012 Tour de France; for the uninitiated – myself included, prior to this hike – this mountain pass in the southern Jura is a superb visual gateway to the Alps. Spectacular views from the summit await those who are prepared to hike to the summit and have achy legs for days afterwards – or if you’re not quite feeling it, you could always drive your Citroën 2CV to the summit instead.

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La Vie Lyonnaise #7 | Here Comes the Sun

Not so long ago, I joked to one of the secretaries – the one who I know on a first name basis – that the tail end of Lyon’s winter is akin to a British summer. On February 1st, it was a balmy 16°C; I could happily have worn shorts, but for the fact I was teaching and that probably wouldn’t have looked all that professional. (The fact I’m often mistaken for a student by administrative staff is beside the point.) Temperatures are climbing steadily upward, and at this rate I’ll be spending afternoons in the park reading my books sooner than I had anticipated.

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