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My top 5 Parisian discoveries

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Posing on Les Deux Plateaux, a controversial art installation by Daniel Buren

Fortune graced me with the opportunity to spend two weeks in Paris in early December. It wasn’t my first trip so there was no need to play tourist bingo. Instead, I had the luxury of seeking out a few alternative highlights. Here are some of my favourite discoveries.

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Christmas in Paris: Need to know

pariswinter, amyinprovenceI’ll admit it, I was dubious about spending Christmas in Paris. Although I love the city I’ve become accustomed to Christmas at home with my family, roast turkey and all the trimmings. So the thought of wandering the sleepy streets of Paris looking for a bite to eat on Christmas day was not so appealing. Happily, and to my surprise, I found the city was buzzing and full of festive cheer. Despite the horrific events of November it held its head up high and shined more brightly than I’d ever seen it. Here are a few things to know in case you feel like escaping to the City of Light next Noël:

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All this beauty can be exhausting

It started when Jim saw these pictures from the French film Claire’s Knee on Tumblr. The film is set on and around a beautiful lake and he made it his mission to find out where it was and go there. We discovered that the name of the lake is Lac D’Annecy, or Lake Annecy, and it is to the east of France, right next to Switzerland: a perfectly located stop-over on  our road trip from the UK to Provence.

So we headed for the town of Annecy and, arriving at sunset, we weren’t disappointed:

Lake Annecy
Lake Annecy at sunset

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Plan de la Tour market: The best olives in Provence?

Since moving to Provence, the Plan de la Tour market has become a weekly ritual. It isn’t the biggest market in the area and while it is busy and bustling in the middle of summer, it can feel a little ghostly out of season. But it is an important part of village life, with everyone stocking up on their provisions for the week from local vendors and producers.

The olives here are prepared and sold by a lady who my Grandma remembers running the same stand over twenty years ago. And they truly are the best olives I’ve tried, (particularly the garlic flavoured green ones).

The Plan de la Tour olive supplier's spread is bounteous and beautiful
The Plan de la Tour olive supply: bounteous and beautiful

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“Don’t buy your bread just anywhere”: French sign promoting artisan bakers

‘Artisan’ seems to be a favourite term around here. There are artisan bakers, butchers, candlestick makers and even artisan builders and plumbers. But what is an artisan?

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Don’t mess with Andouillette

The smell of the andouillette on my soup actually made me cry
The smell of the andouillette on my soup actually made me cry

Accidentally ordered a tripe sausage. It came on top of my soup and was disgusting! That taught me one important lesson. Don’t mess with Andouillette. It is definitely an acquired taste and one only true meat eaters will enjoy. To me it tasted like the wrong part of the pig.

Be warned, this could end up on your plate if you don’t check what saucisson you have ordered!

Restaurants in Provence: Pizzeria Vallaury

Sitting outdoors at Vallaury Pizzeria
Sitting outdoors at Vallaury Pizzeria, admiring a classic 2CV

There’s not much you need to know about Pizzeria Chez Coralie et Robert. It is a small takeaway and pizza restaurant in the tiny Plan de la Tour hamlet of Vallaury that does excellent, great value pizza from a wood-fired oven.

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Restaurants in Provence: Vieux Moulin, Plan de la Tour

We're looking shifty in this pic but the food is a winner, I promiseThe Vieux Moulin restaurant has a fond place in my heart. I’ve eaten many times here with friends and family. In the middle of Plan de la Tour, it is good for summer as you can sit outside on their charming terrace or a hearty meal indoors in winter. The exterior is kooky (spot the type writer in the tree outside) and the interior is eclectic, with various bric-a-brac and antiques garnishing the walls.

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Restaurants in Provence: My recommendations

View captured from Le Pescadou, Gassin, Provence
View captured from Le Pescadou, Gassin, Provence, at sunset

Here’s my pick of the the restaurants in Var, based on years of research – I’ll keep adding to this list so watch this space. These aren’t necessarily high end dining establishments – just places where I felt their passion for their food, enjoyed the ambiance and received a warm welcome. Believe me, these criteria are not always met in Provencal restaurants:

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