10 souvenirs to buy from a French supermarket

(or the reason why I always go to France with an empty suitcase)

Let’s be honest. The end of the holidays always sucks.

You might be happy to go home and stuff, but the prospect of going back to the routine of everyday life? Not so much.

One thing that’s good about it though? Souvenirs shopping!

And when in France, there’s no better place for that than the supermarket! (unless of course you’re planning on decorating your flat with Eiffel Tower replicas of all sizes… in which case, enjoy!)

10 souvenirs to buy in a French supermarket | Cake + Whisky

Now, I will admit that I have a bit of a thing for foreign supermarkets, and in my opinion, nothing tops bringing back home the flavours you enjoyed during your holiday…

So if you want to keep the French Summer holiday vibes going, below are 10 brilliant things you should pick up at the local French supermarket!

10 souvenirs to buy in a French supermarket | Cake + Whisky

1. Milk chocolate with hazelnuts: A staple of French snacks, it’s proving surprisingly difficult to find in the UK. Most supermarkets will sell some under their own brand, or you can always splurge for some Milka or Côte d’Or bars… When you’re at it, you might also want to pick up a few bars of Nestlé baking chocolate (the one wrapped with brown paper). You’ll never bake a chocolate cake with cocoa after that.

2. Speciality mustard: The French do love their mustard and, from the classic Dijon to more unusual blends, there’s a wide range to choose from. If you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend anything from family-owned, Burgundy-based mustard company Edmond Fallot.

3. Le Petit Marseillais Milk shower gel: My favourite shower gel in the entire world. Not only is it one of the most moisturising ones I’ve ever tried, but it’s also super cheap (about 2€ for 400ml) and it smells like my childhood.

4. Lotus speculoos: The one and only way to turn your coffee break into a proper Parisian experience. Also really good dunked in tea, crushed on top of baked fruit for an instant crumble, with yoghurt or instead of biscuits in a tiramisu… So you better get a few extra boxes, just to be safe (and maybe add a jar of speculoos spread as well…)!

5. Cornichons: NOT your usual pickles! The French cornichons are smaller in size and have a more ferm, crunchier texture, and the taste is somewhat more sharp. Perfect in sandwiches and with cold meat platters!

6. Levure Chimique “Alsacienne”: Now, that’s a rather weird one, especially since self-raising flour is so easy to come by in the UK. BUT despite my effort, I find that cakes simply don’t raise the same way when I don’t use the little pink bags, and taste weirdly chemical-ey when I add some British baking powder to my batters… or am I just doing something wrong?

7. Skincare from the parapharmacie: Parapharmacies are where all my money disappears the second I set food in France. Offering all sorts of skin care products, there are any beauty addict’s dream come true and very good value for brands such as La Roche Posay, Avène, Caudalie etc.

8. Crème de Marrons: Now, this is rather niche. Coming from the beautiful middle-of-nowhere region of Ardèche, this chestnut spread is simply divine. My favourite way to eat it is mixed in yoghurts, but it also has multiple uses in pastry (and I won’t rule out the idea of eating it by the spoonful…)

9. Wine: Because when in France… but put down that bottle of Chardonnay (nobody in France drinks that) and go less obvious labels. If you’re into white wine, I suggest you try a nutty Côtes du Jura (excellent with hard cheese and stone fruit), or an easy-going Sancerre. As far as rosé goes, you can’t really go wrong with a Bandol. And if red’s you thing, maybe a Bourgogne or a Saint Nicolas?

10. Herbes de Provence: This mix of dried herbs (usually marjoram, rosemary, thyme and oregano) simply tastes of Summer. It is a staple of southeast France cuisine and perfect on grilled meat and fish, as well as in Provencal stews such as ratatouille.

 

What sort of souvenir do you like to bring back from holiday?

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10 souvenirs to buy in a French supermarket | Cake + Whisky

10 souvenirs to buy from a French supermarket

A taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris

If by day, Paris is the city of love, by night, it’s really quite the spot to party!

Of course, there are plenty of clubs in town, but what Paris truly excels at is the understated, intimate sort of party.

Rooftops & champagne bars, teeny-tiny wine bars, and everything in between, it has nothing in common with London’s sweaty clubs and their ‘are-you-kidding-me’ priced drinks.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

And the place to be to party the Parisian-way?

The holly hipster area between République and the Canal Saint Martin!

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

At daytime, it’s home to loads of small clothes & home boutiques, with loads of street art and a handful of nice coffee shops and cafés…

But at night, it’s all about the underground, speakeasy-like bars!

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Hidden behind a door that looks just like any other one, at the back of an absolutely ordinary courtyard, is my favourite of them all: Comptoir Général.

If it wasn’t for the bodyguards (and the constant flow of people), you’d never know it was there…

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

The rather grand entrance sets the tone in terms of decor.

Think colonial palace meets dirty-around-the-edge brothel, with a hint of flea market added in for good measure.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

It even gets quite random at times, with a full-sized tiki bar…

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

… and a full size pirate boat to match!

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Which is all rather weird if you think about it, but Comptoir Général is really all about discovering & exploring obscure, marginal & under-estimated cultures from around the world.

And the thing is, the atmosphere you get from those seemingly juxtaposed bits is simply fantastic.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Authentic and relax, fun, very, very bo-bo (bourgeois-bohème, Paris’ answer to our hipster culture!) and a little bit dirty around the edges…

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Trendy Parisians come in group, with their friends, their parents and even their dogs for a couple of cocktails, a bite to eat and the garantee of a great time.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

There’s a small but to-the-point cocktail list, with brilliant African-inspired drinks full of tropical flavours.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

The Draquecito: rum, lime, cane sugar & mint

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Basically a pimped-up mojito, and just as refreshing as you’d expect!

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Punch Bimbo, a citrus-y take on the Caribbean classic.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

And a few too many glasses of the obligatory Planteur.

In hintsight, a few less of those would have been wiser, but the combination of rum, orange, pineapple, guava and mango was just too good to resist!

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Starving and a little bit tipsy, we made our way to the next room in search of some nibbles to match.

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With that same flea-market-y feel that runs through the whole thing, super friendly staff & a short-and-sweet sort of menu, Comptoir Général’s restaurant is basically a piece of central Africa in the heart of Paris.

With food to match!

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

We started off with a double order of a Salt Cod puffs with ‘Chien‘ dipping sauce.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Delightfully light and subtle fish doughnuts, and not one dog in sight in the sauce!

Despite it’s name, the traditional dipping sauce from Martinique is actually made of herbs, garlic, chilli, lemon & oil.

Sour, fresh and rather pungent, its the perfect accompaniment to cut through the richness of the salt cod puffs!

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Corn hush puppies with fiery Chipotle mayo

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Followed by the Special of the day, an Indian-inspired burger.

A vibrant and tasty hommage to the flavours of India, that are becoming more and more popular in Africa.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

And an excellent Chicken Maffé (a traditional peanut-based stew from Sénégal), which took me back to a trip to Africa I did many years ago.

Down to Earth, homely food that tastes just like what an Africa Mamma would cook, good cocktails, some cracking music and a winning experience everytime, Comptoir Général is the perfect place to get a taste of Africa in the heart of Paris!

Go with friends, book a table and stay ’til late… It’s always a fun place to be!

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A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

A taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris

A walk about Paris + Lunch at Le Comptoir

On our last day in Paris, we had a bit of a late start (due to a few too many cocktails, fireworks and having to walk across all of Paris to go home afterwards).

The plan was originally to climb the towers of Notre Dame, but when we turned up, the queue was already winding up half of Ile St Louis, so we decided to pass.

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Instead, we explored Paris charming little flower market…

Before heading right across the street to one of my favourite Paris’ sight.

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Hidden behind the golden doors of Palais de la Cité (the residence of the Kings of France until the 14th century, now used as Paris’ Court of Justice), the Sainte Chapelle is an absolute gem of Gothic style.

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Built in only seven years, the Sainte Chapelle was intended to house precious Christian relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns, acquired by Saint Louis.

Sainte Chapelle, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Besides the stunning white stone portal is the lower chapel, which served as parish church for all the inhabitants of the palace, which was the seat of government.

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With low ceilings, richly coloured and decorated walls, the lower chapel is an excellent reminder of the religious and political influence coming with the possession of the sacred relics.

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Up a flight of stairs, you’ll enter the upper chapel, adorned with the same fleur-de-lys ceiling and coloured patterned walls.

But nobody will blame you for not spotting them…

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Indeed, the Sainte Chapelle most feature is its stunning stained glass windows, for whose benefit the stone wall surface is reduced to little more than a delicate framework.

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Arranged across 15 windows, each 15 metres high, the stained glass panes depict 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments recounting the history of the world until the arrival of the relics in Paris in August 1239.

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The level of detail in each window is absolutely astonishing, and I could have spent the day admiring each one in awe.

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But my grumbly stomach had other plans…

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So after one last look at the Sainte Chapelle’s stunning stained glass windows, we crossed the river in search of lunch.

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Eventually settling at Le Comptoir, ‘bistronomy‘ (bistro-gastronomy) chef Yves Camdeborde acclaimed restaurant.

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With its retro look and its sunny terrace, it’s not hard to see why it’s become a locals’ favourite…

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The excellent selection of wine (including a stunning Bandol rosé) and delightful crusty bread probably didn’t hurt either…

But refrain from nibbling to much of it while you place your order, as the food itself is absolutely glorious.

Lunch at Le Comptoir, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Melt-in the mouth Daube de boeuf, with carrots and pasta.

Rich and indulgent, it had been cooked for hours, and was so soft a spoon could cut through it.

Lunch at Le Comptoir, Paris | Cake + Whisky

A bit of a Greek twist of the classic Steak tartare.

Lunch at Le Comptoir, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Served with aubergine purée, anchovy paste and grated feta alongside the traditonal capers and shallot, it was super fresh and the perfect dish to have on a sunny day!

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And a little side salad, because greens never hurt!

Especially if you’re planning some rather indulgent dessert action afterwards!

Lunch at Le Comptoir, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Baba au rhum with Chantilly cream and praline.

The French classic, litteraly drenched in rum (much to the horror of the American couple having lunch next to us!)

But the cherry on top of this fabulous bistro meal?

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This stunning Coffee Crème Brûlée!

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Topped with a wafer-thin layer of crispy caramel, hiding a silky-smooth, intensely coffee-y set cream.

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Everything a good brûlée should be, and then some more, much like the rest of the dishes at Le Comptoir.

Simple, to-the-point bistro food, celebrating the variety and seasonality of French cuisine.

‘Bistronomy” at its very best!

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And just enough fuel to reach nearby Jardins du Luxembourg for a stroll around the breath-taking Sénat (the French equivalent to the UK’s House of Lords) building and a bit of a snooze on one of the park’s deck loungers…

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A walk about Paris | Cake + Whisky

A walk about Paris + Lunch at Le Comptoir

Breakfast in Paris

If there’s one thing you simply must do on a trip to Paris, it’s pop out in the morning for fresh bread and croissants.

There are boulangeries on every corner, selling all the classics.

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Baguettes, croissants, pain au chocolat…

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Along with every other treat you could hope for!

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Including speciality bread…

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Pizza…

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And never-ending rows of beautiful cakes!

Pick up all your favourites (we couldn’t pass up Boulangerie Bo‘s beautiful cakes…), then take your haul to the closest sunny spot you can find.

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If you’re lucky, your local boulangerie might even have a built-in spot for impromptu breakfast picnics…

Breakfast in Paris at Boulangerie Bo | Cake + Whisky

Then, all you have to do is get stuck in!

Breakfast in Paris at Boulangerie Bo | Cake + Whisky

Coconut & wild strawberry tartlet, fresh & light as a (coconut foam) cloud

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Decadent Raspberry & pistachio tartlet, bursting with pistachio flavour and tart raspberry jam.

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Last but not least, the signature Vanilla tartlet.

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A delicate almond & vanilla wonder, with layers of vanilla whipped cream, almond marzipan & almond biscuit.

An absolute triumph.

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High on sugar we decided to walk it off at the nearby Coulée Verte.

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A unique space in Paris (but not disimilar to New York’s Highline), La Coulée Verte is a 3mi green belt built on top of the obsolete Vincennes railway line.

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Beginning just east of the Opéra Bastille with the elevated Viaduc des Arts, it goes all the way down to the boulevard Périphérique beltway.

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From the elevated gardens, you get a new perspective of the city.

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…and a little bit of a nosy into people’s flats along the way!

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Cake, nature & architectural wonders… The perfect start to any day of Parisian adventures!

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Breakfast in Paris at Boulangerie Bo | Cake + Whisky

Breakfast in Paris

Frenchie Bar à Vins, Paris

There’s something quite fascinating about bar dining.

Watching the chefs do their thing, grating this, chopping that, tasting it all, fixing the seasoning, dressing the plates, seeing your dishes being made in front of your very eyes… it never fails to make me want to order the whole menu!

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Which is pretty much what happened at Frenchie Bar à Vins, a tiny but perfectly formed wine bar located Rue du Nil, in Paris’ trendy 2nd arrondissement.

Frenchie Bar à Vins, Paris 2nd | Cake + Whisky

Having just missed the last table on the 7 PM sitting, things didn’t seem to be going so well at first as we were told it’d take about an hour and a half to get seated.

But it simply looked too good to miss out on, and I had a good feeling about the place. So we settled in with a glass of wine. The time passed and soon enough, we were led to our table.

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But not just any table. The best in the house, with direct views into Frenchie’s amazing kitchen.

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Mesmerised by the chefs’ movements, distracted by the beautiful smells and dishes coming from the kitchen, it took us a while to order.

 

We started things off with a few more glasses of wine…

Frenchie Bar à Vins, Paris 2nd | Cake + Whisky

A rich, complex Bourgogne for him and an incredibly nutty Côtes du Jura for me.

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Followed by one of everything on the menu that night (almost).

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Homemade country style terrine and piccalilli

A generous serving of bacon-wrapped, super meaty pork terrine, perfectly complemented by the sharpness of the pickle-y piccalilli, prooving once again that classics done well are difficult to beat!

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Burrata with pea shoots, Amalfi lemon and fresh almonds

A delicate flavour combination, creamy, fresh, interesting… and quite simply perfect!

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Sweet & sour cauliflower fritters with seeds

Earthy cauliflower, sweet and sour Thai dressing, lime and seeds… an unlikely combination for sure, but it turned out to be one of those dishes you just want to keep on eating.

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Rabbit pappardelle with black olives and confit lemon

A refreshing, zingy twist on the classic.

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Heirloom tomato panzanella with goat’s curd.

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Gorgeous Ricotta ravioli with fresh peas, clover and mushroom jus.

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Clean, complex and inspired, it only took one bite for it to take the lead as the best vegetarian dish I’ve eaten sofar this year.

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Octopus carpaccio with sun-dried tomatoes and sea trout roe.

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Chicken with veal jus & broad bean risotto.

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And the most beautiful Apricot tart with herb ice cream to top it all off.

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With apricot jam, puree, roasted apricots and the dreamiest of pastries (soooo buttery and crumbly!), topped by a generous quenelle of fragrant thyme-flavoured ice cream, it was a wonder of taste and texture.

The kind you’d only share with your very favourite people in the world.

Which is just as well considering the intimate setting of Frenchie Bar à Vins. It’s not big, and it sure is popular, but it is well worth the wait.

Just make sure you make the most of your table when you get one.

Over-ordering absolutely compulsory!

Frenchie Bar à Vins, 5-6 rue du Nil, 75002 Paris

Frenchie Bar à Vins, Paris

On top of Paris

There isn’t one angle Paris doesn’t look majestic from.

But it’s especially beautiful from the top.

So on our first day in the French capital, we took it upon ourselves to brave the masses of tourists at Galeries Lafayette and climb to the very top…

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Where we were rewarded with this view.

From the Eiffel Tower, to the golden dome of the Invalides and everything in between, the whole of Paris of Paris is at your feet.

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There is a brilliant view of the majestic Opera building too.

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And if you’ve done your research, there will be many a monument you’ll recognize…

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As you’re about to head back downstairs, make sure you get a good look at Montmartre’s stunning Sacré Coeur church.

An intricate architectural wonder dominating Paris’ highest mound, it’s well worth it if you ask me!

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You might also want to take a moment to ‘Oooh’ and ‘Aaah’ at the Galeries Lafayette’s resident wonder…

Before going right across the street to one of Paris’ newest, yet most succesful stores.

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After having worked at Le Gavroche, then with the Roux family and French patisserie superstars Christophe Felder and Pierre Hermé, Christophe Adam opened L’Eclair de Génie in 2012.

There, he focuses on his favourite patisserie classic, the traditional éclair, which gets re-invented in a variety of exclusive and creative flavours.

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Taking the city by storm and leaving all Parisians (and myself) feeling like kids in a candy store.

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In the window, nothing but rows and rows of jewel-like éclairs.

Spinning head, beating heart and sweaty palms, far too uickly, it’s time to make a choice.

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Will you go for the meringue & cookie adorned yuzu-lemon éclair? The classic strawberry & raspberry éclair? Or maybe the temptalising vanilla & pecan nut one?

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Maybe you’ll succumb to the exotic charms of the above passion & mango éclair.

Or will the limited edition ‘Paris’ one catch your eye?

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Needless to say, choosing just one is a real challenge.

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Once you do, you’ll want to take your precious haul outside and take advantage of one of the city’s quiet little parcs.

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Settle on a bench in the sun and take your paper treasure chest out of its multicoloured bag.

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Take one last look at those éclair beauties (and maybe a few Insta-worthy pics), before digging in!

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Not only are L’Eclair de Génie the prettiest éclairs around, but they’re also the best I’ve ever had (and trust me, I’ve had a few in my French days).

Vibrant, perfectly balanced and with cleverly picked topping that bring that little textural plus, they’re truly a work of art.

So good in fact they deserve a little déclairation of love!

So make sure you pick a box up next time you’re in Paris (find all the stores on L’Eclair de Génie’s website). In the meantime, I’ll have my fingers crossed that they’ll soon come to this side of the Channel…

On top of Paris

Postcard from Paris – Bleu, Blanc, Rouge

(Just a quick ‘postcard from Paris’-type post today while I unpack my bags & go through my pictures, but expect a lot more of French-flavoured content coming to Cake + Whisky very soon!)

Bleu. Blanc. Rouge.

Blue for honour, white for purity, red for passion. Blue for the king, white for light, red for blood.

And of course, blue skies, white cheese and red wine!

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As it happens, blue and red are also the time-honored colors of Paris, while white is the color of the Royal House of Bourbon (including Louis XIV, XV & XVI, whose reigns have fundamentaly marked the French capital).

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No wonder then that blue, white and red are everywhere in Paris… especially on Bastille Day!

Bleu, Blanc, Rouge in Paris | Cake + WhiskyBleu, Blanc, Rouge in Paris | Cake + WhiskyBleu, Blanc, Rouge in Paris | Cake + Whisky

France may have lost the Euros, and we may have had the saddest of Bastille Day, but the tricolore colours still shine high and proud. Love will prevail.

Together with blue skies, white cheese & red wine, of course!

Postcard from Paris – Bleu, Blanc, Rouge

10 French places (that are not Paris) you must visit

When it comes to tourism in France, Paris definitely dominates the headlines.

And while it is charming, magical and a place everyone should visit at least one, this doesn’t mean other French cities should be overlooked!

Snowy mountains, golden sand beaches, no-house-for-miles countryside, buzzy cities, adorable little towns, France has it all.

And because there’ll be more than enough ‘Paris’ content coming to this blog very, very soon (I’m on my way there as you read this!), I thought it was only fair to balance things out by sharing 10 other French places you absolutely must put on your travel bucket list.

1. Lyon

Located in the South East of France, near the Swiss border, there are many reasons to put Lyon at the very top of your travel bucket list.

Lyon | 10 French cities (that are not Paris) to visit

First things first, food.

France is always acclaimed for its gastronomy, and Lyon is the capital city of French gastronomy. No molecular food to be seen there! Lyonnaise cuisine focuses on home cooked dishes and the classics, with the ultimate aim of highlighting carefully chosen ingredients.

Lyon, France

Lyon’s ‘bouchon’ restaurants are the place to go to taste the best local dishes such as sausages, duck pâté or roast pork along with local wines. Much like tapas bars in Barcelona, the locals have their favourites and will happily give you tips.

Lyon | 10 French cities everyone must travel to

Besides being a delicious city, Lyon is also a beautiful one and is home to 2,000 years of history. The Historic Site of Lyons has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998 and includes examples of Roman and Renaissance architecture.

2. Saint Malo

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Located on the English Channel, Saint Malo is a walled port city with a badass history!

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Traditionally with an independent streak (and a tradition of asserting its autonomy in dealings with the French authorities and even with the local Breton authorities), Saint-Malo was in the past notorious for privateering.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

The city still shows marks of its hectic past, making it the perfect destination for history nerds and pirates lovers!

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

And then, there are some of the most beautiful beaches in France, green-toned water, the freshest seafood… and SALTED CARAMEL!

Read more: 10 reasons to visit Saint Malo / Sailing to Saint Malo with Brittany Ferries / 10 awesome souvenirs to buy in Saint Malo

3. Corsica

Corsica | 10 French places for your travel bucket list

A small island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea (and the birthplace of Napoleon), Corsica is nothing like mainland France.

Corsica | 10 places in France to visit before you die

Mountains make up two-thirds of the island, forming a single chain and creating jaw-droppingly beautiful landscapes and the dreamiest of backgrounds for hiking.

Corsica | 10 places in France too beautiful for words

Surrounded by the sea, covered in forests and under a rather mild weather, Corsica is the perfect destination if you’re in for a bit of a walk on the wild side!

4. Strasbourg

Strasbourg | 10 French cities to visit before you die

Strasbourg, the capital city of the Alsace region, sits near the German border in northwestern France and it’s the perfect example of what makes border cities so special.

Strasbourg architecture, much like its culture, blends German and French influences perfectly.

Strasbourg | 10 French cities to put on your travel bucket list

And there’s a lot to see: from the breath-taking gothic Cathedrale Notre Dame to the hyper-modern European Parliament building, as well as many other EU-related buildings and the too-cute-for-words Petite France area, Strasbourg is a small city that packs up a lot!

Strasbourg | 10 French cities perfect for a weekend getaway

Perfect for a (potentially Flamenküche-and-beer-fueled) weekend city break!

5. Nantes

Nantes | 10 best French cities to visit

Long rated one of France’s best places to live, the capital of the western Loire was once a powerful maritime city. Nowadays, the waterways are not as influential as they once were, but Nantes has many other aces up its sleeves.

Nantes | 10 best French cities to travel to

There’s something fascinating about how the old (including the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, former home of the Dukes of Brittany and Anne de Bretagne) mixes with the new and a walk through Nantes will take you way into the past and back.

Nantes | 10 best French cities to travel to

Even more interesting is Nantes’ ever-growing number of art and cultural diversions. Highlights include open-air Les Machines de L’Ile, an unprecedented artistic project channeling Jules Verne’s “invented worlds”, of the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci, where you can ride a 12-m elephant-machine, as well as a trip to Le Lieu Unique,the national center for contemporary arts, housed in a former biscuit factory at the center of the city.

Nantes | 10 French cities everyone should visit

And no visit to Nantes is complete without a feast on the region’s food specialities, including fish with beurre blanc sauce, Gateau Nantais (a kind of iced almond cake), all washed down with a chilled glass of crisp muscadet!

6. Lille

Lille | 10 best French cities to travel to

Lille is an architectural beauty with strong Flemish influences, but it’s also a historical hot-spot.

Long an industrial centre, Lille has made major efforts to reviev itself in the last two decades it has made great efforts to revive itself, efforts that were rewarded with Lille becoming the European City of Culture in 2004.

Lille | 10 best French cities to travel to

Most of the city old buildings have been renovated to their original beauty and are well worth a look, especially the Old Stock Exchange building and the magnificent Grand’ Place, which has many historic houses and is also home to markets and other public events.

Lille | 10 best French cities to travel to

Less famous but equally stunning is La Piscine, the craft & industry museum, worth a visit for the outstanding art deco interior and the mosaic indoor swimming pool alone!

Lille | 10 best French cities to travel to

Flea market lovers will want to plan their visit around the Grande Braderie de Lille, the largest flea market in Europe, taking place at the beginning of September and gathering about 2.5 millions visitors each year.

7. Bordeaux

Bordeaux | 10 best French cities to travel to

Bordeaux is of course the destination of choice for any wine lover. From vineyard tours to pretigious tasting sessions and wine festivals, there’s something for everyone and every budget.

Bordeaux | 10 best French cities to travel to

And while oenology and gastronomy are at the heart of many a trip to Bordeaux, there are many more reasons to pay the European Best Destination 2015 a visit.

Bordeaux | 10 best French cities to travel to

A city at the crossings between past and future, Bordeaux is elegant and surprising. From the amazing mirror of water to the monumental Grand Theatre and its small-street city centre, it’s truly a city of contrasts.

Bordeaux | 10 best French cities to travel to

On foot, by bike, tram, Bordeaux deserves to be explored before re-joining the docks in the evening for a stroll and a taste of the region’s many specialties on the edge of the river.

8. Annecy

Annecy | 10 best French cities to travel to

Settled on the shores of the Lake, and surrounded by mountains and woods, Annecy is one of the most popular towns in the Alps, and with good reasons as it combines the advantages of a town with unlimited water-based and mountain-related activities, such as hicking, cycling, pedal-boat on the lake, or even swimming.

Annecy | 10 best French cities to travel to

The old town is also well worth climbing to, with buildings dating back to the 12th century and many a great ice cream parlour to reward your effort!

9. Ile de Ré 

Ile de Ré | 10 best French cities to travel to

Located bang in the middle of continental France only a couple of miles away from the Atlantic coast, Ile de Ré is my happy place.

It’s where I spent all my holidays growing up, and I go back every opportunity I get.

Postcard from the Ile de Ré | Cake + Whisky

It’s a beautiful little island, all in shades of blue and green, with white houses, endless beaches of golden sand, salt marshes as far as the eye can see and loads of bikes.

Cake + Whisky | Ile de Ré France beach

There’s more markets than you could possbily hope for, all bursting with fresh produce, gorgeous little restaurants dotted around the island, and the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten in my life.

Postcard from the Ile de Ré | Cake + Whisky

(and seeing that as you read that, I’m wiggling my toes in the sand on one of Ile de Ré’s beautiful beaches, expect more Ile de Ré pics coming your way very, very soon!)

10. Disneyland!

Disneyland Paris | 10 best French cities to travel to

Alright, alright, that last one is cheating a little bit… But then, when a place makes perfectly responsible adults act like 6-year-olds, surely it is worth a visit!

10 French places (that are not Paris) you must visit

Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo

As you might have gathered by now, food in Saint Malo was truly spectacular.

There was Michelin-stared lobsters, Michelin-worthy lemon tarts, and a loooooot of salted caramel.

But dinner at Restaurant Le 5 was truly quite magical.

Hotel de France Le Chateaubriand, Saint Malo | Cake + WhiskyHotel de France Le Chateaubriand, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky

Restaurant Le 5 is a bit of a locals’ secret and can only be accessed via the lobby of Hotel de France Le Chateaubriand (where we stayed).

Hotel de France Le Chateaubriand, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky Hotel de France Le Chateaubriand, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky

Which is the perfect excuse to take a peak at the hotel’s charming Colonial-meets-retro lobby and stunning dining rooms on your way up!

And before you know it, you’re on top of the world (or at least, Saint Malo!)!

Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + WhiskyRestaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + WhiskyRestaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky

A classy nautical theme runs through the restaurant.

Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky

With stunning, 360° views to match!

Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky

And a seasonal, fine dining set menu worthy of the very best restaurants!

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For starters, foie gras was the most popular option.

Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky

Served with pickled baby vegetables and red onion relish, it was the perfect balance of creamy, crunchy, tangy and sweet and absolutely dreamy!

Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky

Vegetarians weren’t quite as lucky though…

Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky

Despite their starter looking absolutely stunning, it was very much just a plate of tomatoes.

Ruby red, adorable on-the-vine cherry tomatoes, but tomatoes all the same.

For fish- & meat-eaters though, things kept getting better and better with mains.

Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky

Yellow pollack fillet, Espelette pepper, fennel panna cotta & yuzu foam

Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + WhiskyRestaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky

A vibrant fish dish and one of the best things I’ve eaten sofar this year.

Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky

All washed down with a few too many glasses of crisp Chardonnay…

And topped off with a choice-ditcher’s dream dessert: Café Gourmand.

Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + WhiskyRestaurant Le 5, Saint Malo | Cake + Whisky

AKA a cup of espresso, surrounded by a selection of mini-desserts.

Friand, canelé, macaron… we got all the classics and then some!

 

Panoramic views over Saint Malo, stunning food and even better pudding, Restaurant Le 5 has it all. Perfect for a romantic date or to celebrate something special!

More info + bookings here

Restaurant Le 512, Place Chateaubriand, 35400 Saint-Malo, France

Restaurant Le 5, Saint Malo

10 reasons to visit Saint Malo

1. Because Saint Malo is a city with a badass history!

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Saint-Malo traces its origins to a monastic settlement founded early in the sixth century.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

From then on, the city had a tradition of asserting its autonomy in dealings with the French authorities and even with the local Breton authorities.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Later on, St Malo mariners were the first Frenchmen to Canada, the Indies and round Cape Horn to the Pacific seaboard. Worldwide trade brought extravagant prosperity to the city.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

The thing is that you can read the story in modern day Saint Malo’s townscape and a tour of the ‘cité corsaire’ is the perfect way to discover it all.

Emeraude Guides offers some brilliant tours of the city, both in English and French, as well as a variety of excursions, which you can book through their website. Alternatively you can get an audio guide from St Malo Tourism Office for 12€.

2. Because there’s something magical about being surrounded by the sea.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Being built on a rock reclaimed from the sea, water pretty much circles the whole of Saint Malo.

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Which make for rather high maintenance (those walls are here for a reason!) but also for breathtaking views of the sea from… well, pretty much anywhere, really!

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

From the top of the bulwarks to almost every hotel room in town, the sea is everywhere in Saint Malo!

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + WhiskySaint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + WhiskySaint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + WhiskySaint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Including on the menu of many restaurants!

(PS. Did you catch my previous post, all about Malouin Michelin-starred chef Luc Morbihan’s top tips to cook lobster?)

3. Because Saint Malo is home to one of France’s most beautiful beaches.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Brittany is the region with the  longest continuous coastlines in France and each stretch is more beautiful than the next.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Transparent, blue-green water (hence the ‘Emerald Coast’ nickname) and golden sand as far as the eye can see, Saint Malo truly is a little piece of beach-goer paradise!

4. Because the city is an absolute architectural dream.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Looking at the stone buildings and the pastel blue facades, one can hardly imagine that the historic walled city of Saint-Malo was almost totally destroyed by American shelling and bombing as well as British naval gunfire.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + WhiskySaint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

The city was carefully re-built according to original building designs from 1948 to 1960 and has since re-gained its original beauty.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + WhiskySaint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

5. Because people who like butter are always the best people.

And god knows Malouins do!

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From the Bordier ‘Butter House‘ (yes! a store/museum focusing on all things butter!!), to many a food speciality and about a billion different kinds of butter biscuits, butter is EVERYWHERE in Saint Malo!

And there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with that.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Oh, and the ‘Butter House‘ also happen to have the prettiest floor…

6. Because you haven’t truly lived until you tried Kouign Amann.

A butter-enriched, caramel crusted croissant and one of the very best pastries France has ever created (and I don’t say that lightly).

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Forget about learning how to say it (‘coo-nee-ha-man’ in case you were wondering), just get your hands on one ASAP.

7. Because buckwheat is totally underrated!

Buckwheat is a plant cultivated for its grain-like seeds, and one of the healthiest food there is.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + WhiskySaint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

More importantly, it is the key ingredient to galettes, the traditional Brittany savoury pancakes.

It’s gluten and dairy free, and packed full of good-for-you stuff.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Ask for the ‘complete’ (with ham, cheese and egg) or have it with smoked salmon (my personal favourite) and a nice cup of cider.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

As I they say,  one galette a day keeps the doctor away!

8. Because SALTED CARAMEL!

Just stating the obvious there.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Onto crêpes, ice cream, baked into cakes and biscuits or even by the spoonful, there’s no wrong way to eat salted caramel, so make sure you make the best of the opportunity!

(Plus you’ll be supporting the local economy, so double brownie points for you!)

9. Because it’s small enough not to get lost but be enough so you won’t get bored.

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

From being a total beach bum, to touring Saint Malo’s many restaurants, bars and foodie spots, seing the final resting place of famous French writter Chateaubriand, going on excursion to nearby islands, learning about the city’s rich history and trying out all sorts of sporty activities (surf, segway… you name it!), Saint Malo is the perfect destination no matter what sort of holiday you’re after!

10. Because it’ll only be the beginning of your love story with Brittany!

Saint Malo, Brittany, France | Cake + Whisky

Saint Malo is well worth a spot on your Travel To Do List, even if it’s only for a long weekend. Just a few days there felt like a proper break and I can’t recommend it enough!

Thanks to its great links with British ports, and with plenty more to see in the area (including the Mont Saint-Michel, a Unesco World Heritage site), Saint Malo is also an excellent home port if you’re planning to stay in Brittany for a little while longer.

And it’s all so pretty (and delicious), how could I blame you?

Can’t wait to start planning your trip to Saint Malo? Visit Brittany Tourism’s website for all info, including practical information, accomodation and more ideas of what to see and do!

10 reasons to visit Saint Malo