These are a few of my favorite things…

I’ve only been home for a little over a week and I’m already reminiscing on everything I loved and enjoyed over the past three months in Montaigu

I will miss going to the market on Saturday mornings!

Going to the market on Saturday mornings.

Shopping at my favorite store Maisons Du Monde.. Very decently priced. They have these all over France.

Shopping at my favorite store, Maisons Du Monde. This French store has locations across Europe & is very reasonably priced.

More shopping. Wish I could buy everything.

More shopping. I wish I could buy everything.

Picking Louise up from school. I'll miss being greeted by a happy, smiling face and a kiss!

Picking Louise up from school. I will miss being greeted by kisses and a happy, smiling, bright-eyed face.

Playing "Travel Agency," Lucie's favorite game.

Playing “travel agency,” Lucie’s favorite game.

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Grocery shopping at the SuperU.

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Going for runs…  Running in the park, on the bike paths, across the bridge pictured above, alongside the river, and up and around to the castle. 

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Cooking and experimenting. I loved learning how to make new things like my favorite Vietnamese spring rolls! …In France, they’re called Nems.

On that note… The food. Check out this brunch spread. (Don’t worry, we didn’t eat like this on a regular basis.)

The beautiful biblical statues everywhere you turn.

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And more.

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Tea time with Sophie and her friends.

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Living in the heart and center of Montaigu and walking these streets.

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Visiting Pierre the Butcher and asking him to “coupe” the beef.

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This pretty little lady.

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This cute little goof ball.

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All the wonderful desserts.

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Twick and the little goats.

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Twick (again) …our sidekick.

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And the many pictures of Twick throughout the house.

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Maisons du Montaigu

This post is part of my Living in Montaigu blog series. I recently returned home to the U.S. and need to catch up on quite a few blog posts! I have so much to share: reflections on my amazing experience in Montaigu, photos from my adventures in France and Spain, and so much more.

But first, I wanted to count down my top 10 favorite houses in Montaigu.

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10.  Wouldn’t you just love to enjoy your breakfast out on this patio overlooking the water?

9. Unique, simple and a bit modern.

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8. The detail is incredible.

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7. A beautiful French country farmhouse.

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6. Simple, cozy and green.

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5. I remember taking this picture on my second day in Montaigu. Oh, how time flies.

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4. Cute & quaint.

3. This house is so cool, you’ll get to see it from two angles.

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3. And it overlooks the river.

2. It’s purple… what more can I say.

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1. And finally, “Les Roses”

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Honorable Mention #1 – Technically these are apartments, but I love the modern design and the balconies with a view of the Theater across the street.

Honorable Mention #2 – A beautiful house that I can even call “home”…My favorite family lives here.

Afternoon in La Rochelle

This post is part of my Living In Montaigu blog series! 

In my most recent post, we visited Ile de Re and had a delicious lunch. Later that afternoon, we made our way to the nearby seaport city of La Rochelle.

Okay… lazy blog post. I’m going to copy and paste from Wikipedia and share a few pictures. Enjoy! Oh, and for any future travelers: La Rochelle and Ile de Re are accessible via the La Rochelle – Ile de Re Airport and the train station Gare de La Rochelle, with connections to Paris, Bordeaux, Nantes and other popular cities.

Per Wikipedia, “The city has beautifully maintained its past architecture,making it one of the most picturesque and historically rich cities on the Atlantic coast. La Rochelle’s main feature is the ‘Vieux Port’ (‘Old Harbour’), which is at the heart of the city, picturesque and lined with seafood restaurants. The city walls are open to an evening promenade. The old town has been well preserved.  The countryside of the surrounding Charente-Maritime is very rural and full of history. To the North is Venise Verte, a marshy area of country, criss-crossed with tiny canals and a popular resort for inland boating.  Inland is the country of Cognac and Pineau. The attractive Île de Ré is accessible via a bridge from La Rochelle.”

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Entrance to the port

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My favorite picture of the port

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Day trip to Île de Ré, a charming French Island

See you later Montaigu! We jumped on the highway and headed south.  We missed our exit. But that’s ok.  Instead, we took the scenic route, admiring the French countryside and detouring through quaint little towns.

Île de Ré is a small island (about 20 miles long) off the coast of Western France next to the seaport city of La Rochelle.  When the girls were younger, the family owned a house here. The island is known for a few things:  its sea salt, potatoes, fresh fish and oysters… and its beaches, ports and bike paths. It is a popular European vacation spot.

We spent the morning on the island, had a wonderful lunch and then visited La Rochelle for the rest of the afternoon.

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We started with a visit to Saint Martin, the main port

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View from the port… the Atlantic Ocean (Bay of Biscay)

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We did some shopping and enjoyed the 60 degree weather.

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Interesting tidbit: Remains of Saint Martin’s citadel and fortifications from the 1600’s can still be seen and are included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There is also an old prison in Saint Martin. In the late 1800’s into the early 1900’s, it held prisoners before they were shipped to the penal colonies in the French Guiana.

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More shopping and making our way up to the church.

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Church of Saint Martin

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It’s a RASTA Donkey!

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Naturally, there are several vineyards on the island.

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Finally, the beach! Time to play and dip my toes into the Atlantic!

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Twick loves the beach!!

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Worked up an appetite for lunch! I enjoyed soupe du poissons (fish soup), a fig, ham and goat cheese crepe and a caramel crepe for dessert.  SO MANY CREPES! I also tried a bite of Olivier’s lunch, tête de veau… aka veal head. Tried it and it was pretty tasty.

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Adorable little restaurant. Sophie and Olivier are actually friends with the owner.

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Loving the funky decor.

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Salted caramel crepe. Fantastic!

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To be continued… Stay tuned for my next post on the rest of our afternoon in La Rochelle. Bisous!

P.S. Two weeks from today, Kyle and I will be checking in to the fabulous Park Hyatt Paris Vendome. Can’t wait!

Updates from Montaigu

This is my Living in Montaigu blog series! Please see my very first blog post in the series to learn more. Check out another one of my favorite blog posts, Tour of the House, for some amazing photos.  Enjoy!

I haven’t posted in a while and thought I should share some updates (and pictures, of course). Lucie, Louise, Twick and I went for a nice long walk this past Sunday. Unlike my friends and family back home in DC,  we haven’t had any snow here in France. Luckily, it has been relatively warm here.

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Let’s see… so what else do I do besides going on walks in Montaigu. Well, I asked for a bunch of yoga pants for Christmas so that I could go running here. I mainly run in the afternoons when the girls are at school and on the weekends (have to burn off those delicious macarons somehow!) I love exploring new parts of town, but of course I still enjoy my favorite places… the castle, the small cobble stone streets, and the goats in the park… they never get old.  For being a beginner runner, I think I’ve made a lot of progress. While I’m no Quest Brannock aka marathon runner, I aim for about 10-20 miles a week (with some walking obviously).

Speaking of Quest Brannock, he and Jacquelyn had their baby last week! Baby Lucas arrived on February 18th. Mom, Dad and baby are happy and healthy. I even met the little guy via skype! Here’s a picture of Lucas at 5 days old  (photo – courtesy of Mama Jacquelyn).  

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Kyle made this for his nephew. Isn’t it amazing?

I’m getting a little side tracked here, but here’s what Kyle made for his parents for Christmas. It’s a picture of their house in Haymarket.

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Okay, back to France…

I spend a lot of time playing with Louise, the younger one, and teaching her English. It’s very rewarding when she remembers the words and phrases that I teach her.  We love playing cards together. One of the first card games we played was “Go Fish” or “Aller Pecher.” We also play air hockey on my tablet!

Lucie, the older one, started middle school this year and takes the train to Nantes every day. She is a very busy girl! She spends a lot of time doing homework and practicing her cello.  I really enjoy helping her with her English homework and helping her study for her English exams. I also have the pleasure of going to school with Lucie every Thursday and helping out with two different English classes.

Every Saturday morning, we walk to the market down the street (basically a farmer’s market) for our fruit, vegetables and cheese… and if I’m lucky, fresh seafood and olives. We usually stop by the local butcher for a quick and easy rotisserie chicken to bring home for lunch or one of the bakeries to pick up some goodies.

As many of you know, I love to cook. I love cooking here especially in their huge open kitchen. I cook for the family about three times a week. They are obsessed with Asian food, so that is what they always request. Fine by me… I’ve been getting good practice!

Here is the Pad Thai that I made. I think I’ll be making this a lot back at home!

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And another dish they often request… sauteed ginger beef, bamboo shoots and peppers.

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Enough food for now. It’s almost dinner time and I’m starting to get hungry.

On another note, there are only 24 days until I meet Kyle in Paris! He and I will spend the weekend in Paris and then return to Montaigu for two days. After that, we’ll be visiting a lovely old town in the Bordeaux region called St. Emilion and staying there for a night (awesome Christmas present from Mr. and Mrs. Brannock – thank you!) We will then venture down into Spain and spend time in San Sebastian, the La Rioja Wine Region, Madrid and Toledo.

We will return to the United States on April 3rd (Thursday night) just in time for the baptism of baby Lucas and my cousin Christine’s wedding that Saturday. It will be a busy and exciting day!!

Much love from France. Bisous!

Celebrating Valentine’s Day… Je t’aime

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Yes, the card does say “Anniversentine’s Day”

Kyle and I celebrated our four year anniversary on February 6th. With Valentine’s day being right around the corner, Kyle cleverly came up with “Happy Anniversentine/Valenversary.”

Earlier this week, I received a package with a card from Kyle and a box of very special cookies that he had ordered for me! The cookies were individually bubble-wrapped for their journey from Arlington to France and the Eiffel Tower arrived without a crack.

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How sweet, Kyle even ordered cookies for the girls! Aren’t these adorable?! The cookies were made by Rachel (Baked by Rachel). She is very talented and I am always impressed by her creativity. I highly suggest checking out her website and liking her page on Facebook.

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Oh hey, Cupid… If you didn’t know, Kyle is an amazing artist. And as you can see, the girls loved their cookies!

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Photo by Baked By Rachel. Click on the picture to be directed to her Facebook page!

This post is included in my Living in Montaigu blog series. Please check out my very first blog post in the series to learn more!

Tour of the House

This is my Living in Montaigu blog series. Please check out the first post in my series to learn more!

I thought it would be fun to share some pictures and give you a quick tour of the house…It is a beautiful old house built in 1874. This first picture should look familiar from my very first blog post.

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I’ll start with a few pictures from my favorite place in the house… the kitchen. Naturally, we spend a lot of time here.

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I love coffee and I drink a lot of it… Thank goodness for this wonderful little Nespresso machine.

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I also love tea! As you can see, Sophie has quite the collection of tea (all different varieties and several green tea blends). This is her favorite brand. It is very popular in France.

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The next three pictures are of the dining room. So far, I’ve only had dinner in here once.

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This is the grand entry way or foyer. There are four separate doors here which all lead to a different room or area of the first floor. Needless to say, this led to some confusion during my first week here.

The next several pictures are all taken on the first floor.

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All of the bedrooms are on the second floor. I will share some pictures of the girls’ fairy tale-like bedrooms in another post. On the third floor, there are three guest rooms and a playroom. Here are two pictures from one of the guest rooms.

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And finally, here are a few pictures of another guest room, my bedroom.

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In the basement, is the laundry room and the wine cellar, or as the French call it, the wine “cave.” Olivier has an extremely impressive collection.  In fact, a few weekends ago we had a bottle of wine from 1997. (That’s a 17 year-old bottle of wine!) I will have to ask Olivier to share his wine knowledge and expertise with me so that I can blog about it and share some pictures. Well, I think that’s enough pictures for one post. See you later!!

Pain Perdu by Lucie

This is my Living in Montaigu blog series! Check out my very first blog post to learn more about the series.

It has been a month and three days since I arrived in France. I have to say, time has definitely flown by! Today, Lucie made us Pain Perdu aka French Toast. She is quite the little cook for a 12 year old. I was never a huge French Toast fan before today… but this was amazing.

She started with fresh Brioche bread from a nearby bakery. Per Wikipedia, “Brioche is a pastry of French origin that is akin to a highly enriched bread, and whose high egg and butter content give it a rich and tender crumb. It is light and slightly puffy, more or less fine, according to the proportion of butter and eggs.”

All you need is Brioche (or any other bread), milk, sugar, eggs and some butter.

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Melt butter in a pan. Slice the Brioche and beat the eggs. Dip each slice in the milk, coat with some sugar, and then dip in the beaten eggs. Pan fry (both sides of course) in the hot buttery pan and you’re done.

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It was crispy and buttery on the outside, had the perfect amount of sweetness, and was soft and gooey on the inside.  Simple and delicious.

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It was definitely a nice treat. As you can see, Louise enjoyed it!  And oh yes, no syrup necessary.

Delicious Crepes

This is part of my Living in Montaigu blog series. Please see my very first blog post to learn more about the series.

While the Gallete De Rois is popular in January: February is the month for crepes!

In France, everyone enjoys Gallete De Rois during January to celebrate the holiday Epiphany. The cake has a small porcelain toy inside similar to the Mardi Gras Kings Cake with a baby inside. The Gallete De Rois is a delicious, flaky pastry filled with almond flavored custard (the original). I also tried an apple caramel version which was especially tasty.  Whoever gets the toy in their piece of cake gets to be king for the day and must buy the next cake.

I was lucky to enjoy Gallete De Rois four times during the month of January!

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Gallete De Rois and macarons from the best bakery in town, Maison Robin. ( I will definitely write a future blog post featuring all the amazing treats from this place!)

Now, back to crepes.  Traditionally, the French eat crepes on February 2nd on La Chandeleur, a Catholic holiday in France.  According to tradition: You should hold a coin in one hand and a crepe pan in the other hand. Flip the crepe into the air. If you manage to catch the crepe, superstition dictates that you will be prosperous for the rest of the year. (Haven’t tried it yet!)

Earlier this week, I learned how to make them! Marie-Therese, one of the housekeepers, taught Lucie and I how to make crepes. I watched and made sure to jot down some notes.

Tried to take good notes…

Ready to make crepes

Ready to make crepes

How can you not be excited? The pan is just way too cute!

How can you not be excited? This crepe pan is adorable.

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Whisking away

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The trick is to tilt the pan

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Alright, I think I can handle this…

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Now that the crepes are ready, here comes the fun part… deciding what to put on your crepe! Lucie & Louise squeeze fresh lemon juice on their crepes and pour a ridiculous amount of sugar on them!

Ready to make crepes!

Personally, I’m a little obsessed with Nutella. So, I chose Nutella, bananas, and frozen raspberry bits for my first crepe. For my second crepe, I had Nutella, bananas and kiwi. The next day, I tried the lemon and sugar crepe which was amazingly sweet and tangy!

I had such a fun day making and eating crepes! I also made sure to go for a nice long run that day. I am excited for a month full of crepes and look forward to making them back at home when I return!

Living in Montaigu

After graduating college with an accounting degree, I became a CPA and went to work for one of the big four public accounting firms. After two years and a few months, I decided I was ready for a change. I was offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to live in France for a few months and experience a different culture before transitioning to a new job in the accounting/finance world. I am currently living with a family in a small town called Montaigu in the Pays de la Loire region of Western France. My main responsibility is to teach their two little girls English (and I am loving it thus far!)

Quick geography refresher

So, I’m sure you’re wondering how this opportunity came about… Well, my boyfriend’s sister, Erin, was the au pair for the same family last year. I met the family when they visited the United States earlier in the year and instantly bonded with the girls.  And that brings us to Montaigu…

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My new (temporary) home – Lucie, Louise & Twick

Streets of Montaigu

Historic buildings and architecture

Rustic & historic homes in the town

One of many bakeries

One of many bakeries within walking distance – The family has two favorite bakeries. This is the one we go to for sweets, cakes & pastries. The other bakery (less than 100 steps from the house – I’ll have to count next time) is where we go for bread.

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Beautiful church behind the girls’ music school (tres jolie!)

And from another perspective...

And from another angle…

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Lovely evening view near the castle

Well… I hope you enjoyed the pictures & my first blog post. There are definitely more posts on the way! I take A LOT of pictures and I always want to blog about EVERYTHING (it’s a little overwhelming!) So… Au revoir! See you soon! Bisous!