On my way to meet clients for lunch yesterday, I came across a street art project on Lyon’s pedestrianised shopping street.
Posters of faces cover the pavement
The whole length of the pavement was plastered with black and white photos of faces. The faces showed a variety of emotions, and captivated many of the passing shoppers.
Street art faces
By the time I had finished lunch and returned to take photos, the cleaning crew had arrived to remove it.
The posters were slowly being scrubbed and washed away
Growing up, the first weekend in December was when we put up the Christmas tree. This weekend still feels like the start of the festive season for me; our decorations are up, and the Christmas baking has begun.
This weekend, I made chocolate balls using my grandmother’s recipe. She has been making these for Christmas for as long as I can remember, and now that I’m so far away it’s comforting to have a little bit of my family Christmas traditions in our celebrations.
We also visited Lyon’s Christmas market at Perrache over the weekend. We wandered around, sampled the chocolate-covered marshmallows, admired the twinkling lights, and generally soaked up the festive atmosphere.
Chocolate covered marshmallows at the Christmas market
Christmas market in Lyon
Follow the Owls
When I mentioned to a client that I was going to Dijon for the weekend, the advice I received was to follow the owls. The owls adorn little brass plaques in the pavement that guide you on a walking tour of the city.
Owl plaques guide the way around Dijon.
I first came to appreciate self-guided walking tours in Vichy; the tourist office gave me the walking tour leaflet when I asked for a map, and it was a fantastic way to ensure we didn’t miss any of the important sights. I now look out for these walks when we visit places, and many French towns seem to have them.
Dijon is packed with impressive buildings and monuments, and their owls gave us a very pleasant tour of them.
Dijon is home to well-preserved half-timbered buildings.
On the top of my list of things to see in Dijon was the Palace of the Dukes (Palais des Ducs et des Etats de Bourgogne). The Palace and the circular courtyard in front of it are impressively grand.
Cafes line the circular courtyard in front of the Palace of the Dukes
The building now houses an art museum. We tend to visit museums and art galleries when we travel, but even if art museums aren’t your thing, this one is worth a visit for two reasons: the ancient kitchen with its conical chimney, and the elaborately decorated tombs of the dukes.
Tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy
The surprise of Dijon for me was the rooftops. Brightly-coloured, patterned tiling that sparkles in the sun.
Brightly patterned rooftops appear all around Dijon
In recent months, we’ve been trying to see a bit more of France on our doorstep. Our weekends regularly involve getting up far too early, sitting on the train for a couple of hours, then spending the rest of Saturday and Sunday exploring a new city.
The ornate Des Dômes building
Inside Des Dômes
One of my favourite weekend locations has been Vichy. Vichy was unexpectedly pretty. As a spa town, it has attracted wealth and investment over the centuries, and this can be seen in the varied architecture around the city. I particularly liked the art nouveau buildings around the Parc des Sources.
Glass awning of the Palais de Congrès-Opéra building
Covered walkways of the Parc des Sources.
Vichy has water from a number of different natural sources, all said to have different health benefits. Most of these spring waters are only available to the spa clients, but one, the Source des Célestins, is freely available to all. To my great surprise, it is naturally fizzy. It also has a minerally flavour, which is strange but not unpleasant.
Source des Célestins, naturally sparkling water
I had always assumed that sparkling water had its bubbles added artificially; it never occurred to me that some spring water might be naturally sparkling. The novelty of this naturally sparkling water didn’t wear off; it fascinated me all weekend.
Hall des Sources, which has all the local spring waters on tap
I’m often surprised at what you can successfully cook in the microwave. My first discovery was pappadums, followed by the prawn crackers you get at Chinese restaurants. Both of these are usually deep fried, but they puff up just as well when microwaved for a minute, without any oil at all.
Toasted pumpkin seeds
This week, I added pumpkin seeds to the list. Pumpkins have started appearing in our market, and I picked up a slice this week. By coincidence, I found this post about toasting pumpkin seeds in my RSS reader around the same time.
Since the oven feature on our combination microwave doesn’t work particularly well on its own, I looked around to see if I could use some combination of microwaving and grilling the seeds instead. And it turns out, just microwaving them is enough.
I washed the seeds, and tossed them with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and smoked paprika then put them on a plate in the microwave for 2 minutes. After 30 seconds, the microwave had filled entirely with smoke, and I wondered whether this was a good idea. I opened the door, and the smoke (which was more likely steam) dissipated quickly. Nothing seemed to be burning, so I carried on.
I microwaved the seeds for about 4 minutes in total. They continued to produce huge amounts of steam for the first 3 minutes; I checked on them every 30 seconds or so, to reassure myself they weren’t about to catch fire. In the last minute the steam stopped completely, and the seeds made a crackling sound. When I pulled them out they were golden, crunchy, and delicious.