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Christmas in the South of France

27 Dec 2014
Do you ever just find yourself drifting further and further away from something, and then you feel so far from it that you're not sure if you can find your way back? Many weeks have gone by since my last post, and the main reason for that is very simple - I've been weighed down with exams and essays, along with saying goodbye to some of my wonderful Erasmus friends from Montpellier. Despite being very busy and stressed, I have missed blogging a lot and especially the blogging community. A part of me is afraid that I've been gone for too long, but I'd still like to write this post and share a few of my favourite Christmassy memories of Montpellier, as I'm back in England now for a few weeks.
So, here is a little Christmas roundup:

First up is the wonderful Les Hivernales, a cute little Christmas Market along the Esplanade throughout December.

Although this is a rubbish photo (curse you, iphone 4), it includes some of my favourite people from Montpellier, one of whom has left for good now along with a few of my other friends. It's weird how close you can become with people that you've only met recently!

This picture is from the night that we had cocktails at the amazing Papa Doble,which just so happens to be a one minute walk from our apartment. It also just so happens to do the most delicious cocktails in town, with a lovely underground setting. 

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!
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Back in France: Life Update

16 Nov 2014

I'm not really quite sure how to interpret the past few weeks. Life has been very, very up and down. A big decision has been made which has left me with very mixed feelings, and I can't decide whether I'm feeling more or less like myself right now. In fact, I can't even decide whether that sentence makes sense, but I guess it just goes to prove how muddled I am feeling. The distractions here in France have also died down, mainly due to a change in weather and workloads increasing, and as someone who is incredibly extroverted, I am struggling a bit. I am the type of person who wants to be doing something 7/7 days a week. I am the type of person who hates staying in bed all day (unless I have a horrendous hangover), because I will end up over-thinking every aspect of my life, and creating problems that aren't necessarily there. I also have to stop and remind myself sometimes that I am 21, so all these minor stresses don't really matter in the grand scheme of things. Anyway, this is the reason why I've not been blogging much recently, because life has most definitely got in the way.

Okay so, emotional out pour aside, here are a few things I've been doing/enjoying since I've been back:
enjoying the Montpellier nightlife; 
baking blondies our new mini oven; 
missing an essay deadline for the first time in my life because I misheard the date; 
actually feeling confident after a French grammar test; 
making gnocchi pasta bake for the first time (this newbie didn't even realise gnocchi was a thing);
finding cheddar cheese in the french supermarkets;
sampling toffee vodka (which is actually quite nice by the way); 
randomly meeting a guy from right by my hometown in a club; 
venturing to new, adorable cafes & sampling their vanilla chai lattes; 
finding the perfect, cosy, soft scarf in Zara;
buying a Disney Princesses Advent Calendar;
indulging in the same salted caramel and chocolate melt in the middle dessert multiple times; 
acting like a mama hen and delivering food to my poorly, bed ridden friend all week; 
helping calm my flatmate down about going on a date with a French guy; 
being very impressed and proud of my flatmate going on a date with a French guy; 
trying to decide whether I want to get an internship, full time job or do Camp America this Summer;
writing a bucket list for my year abroad;
smiling a lot when restaurant owners I walk past everyday recognise me;
enjoying the fact that Montpellier still has blue skies and sunshine;
playing Christmas songs and planning our apartment decorations.

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Home Sweet Home

4 Nov 2014
My time in England has come to an end, and if I'm going to be completely honest, I have very mixed feelings about being back in France. I'm really happy that I get to see and go out with all the amazing people I've met here again, and have already celebrated two birthdays since being back (detox week has definitely ended!), but boy am I not looking forward to the stress of the next few weeks. Remember what I said about the universities here being very disorganised, and me having no idea what's going on? Well that's not really changed, and as much as I joke about not caring how I do in my classes, I really do care, and after one disastrous exam a few weeks ago I am seriously feeling the stress!

Anyway, enough of my gibbering and onto some pictures from my week at home!

1. Baking Belgian Buns
2 - 4. Going for Dog walks with my family and darling little dog
5. Full English Breakfasts
6. A delicious traditional pub dinner with my sister Tash and parents
7. Adoring the autumnal Colours
8. Watching a beautiful sunset in Brighton
9. Baking a Chocolate Orange Cake
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Breakfast at Bill's in Farnham

2 Nov 2014

So, Bill's only went and opened up a restaurant within ten minutes drive from my home town whilst I was in France...

Naturally, this meant that a trip down to Farnham for Bill's breakfast was top of my itinerary when I went back home for a week. I actually read said itinerary out to a few friends before I left France and they all joked about how everything was food related... sorry not sorry guys, food should always take centre stage.

I ordered their Super Green Smoothie because I have this issue with hot drinks in the morning, does anyone else get this too? I just can't deal with a cup of anything warm! I have no idea what was in it, but that was probably for the best as I'm one of those annoying people who freaks out when a food item is mentioned that sounds odd! I get this smoothie all the time though and it is always absolutely delicious, and tastes so healthy too!

Mum and Tash went for the Full English on Sourdough bread (an excellent addition!) It was delicious and the bacon was oh so crispy which always gets top marks for me. I love a gourmet breakfast, but I can't help missing the £3.50 bog-standard breakfasts we used to get the morning after a night out in Leeds. I mean, on a whole obviously gourmet style is the best style, but sometimes you just need a classic diner style Full English, don't you?!

I of course went for the pancakes. Just like any other British folk I love my Full English Breakfasts, but pancakes are my all time favourite food and I just couldn't resist Bill's 'American Blueberry Pancakes'. As predicted, they were ultra yummy and everything I wanted in my pancakes that morning.

Bill's is still up there with my favourite restaurants in England (and quite possibly takes the number one spot), and a little birdie told me they're beginning to move further North which is very exciting news. Fingers crossed they'll be one when I return to Leeds in final year!
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Hello, England.

30 Oct 2014

Yeah so, I'm back in England, but only for a week! I catch a flight back to Montpellier on Saturday morning and I honestly can't wait (you didn't think you'd ever catch me saying that now, did you?), but I have had a lovely, relaxing week with my family and some friends from home. I've also been able to have many of the things that I missed so much in France!

Full English Breakfasts:: Bacon!!! Can you believe that they actually don't even sell proper bacon in most supermarkets in France? It's all about the lardons. You can't put a lardon in a sandwich with large helpings of butter and ketchup now can you?!

Chai Lattes:: Nobody does them better than good old British/American coffee shops. Although Nero managed to serve up my friends hot chocolate with some gone off cream when we popped in... not cool!

London:: Although I actually had a really horrible day when I went to London earlier this week (a combination of many things), I still fell in love, as I always do, with the animated atmosphere. As soon as I graduate, I'll be spending all my time job hunting in London, just you wait.

British TV:: Just being able to watch TV on an actual TV is quite the luxury. Me and mum are particularly enjoying Made In Chelsea (although Lucy and Proudlock? Come on, that's never going to work out) and Strictly Come Dancing (bring back the beautiful Thom Evans please.)

Roast Dinner:: Oh it's just so good. The gravy is something that I've definitely missed a lot in France, and the roast potatoes. Yummy yummy.

Pubs:: Nothing says typically British like a great pub meal in a British pub, and that is exactly what me and my family went and had last night in a nearby little village.

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Yummy Raspberry & Walnut Brownies

26 Oct 2014

Oh well will you just look at that, I've found a recipe post that I never actually published properly, so here it is now, and it's a recipe for delicious, chocolatey Raspberry and Walnut Brownies.

The recipe is adapted from my favourite restaurant's cookery book: Bill's 'Cook Eat Smile'. Coincidentally, I will be visiting the amazing place this week at some point (yes, I am back in England for one week and one week only!) for some of their famous breakfast!

You will need:

200g dark chocolate
250g butter
250g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
100g plain flour
2 tsp instant coffee granules
250g raspberries
100g Walnuts (feel free to choose your own nuts/quantities)

Step 1: Preheat oven to 180 degrees/ 160 fan.

Step 2: Toast the walnuts in a baking tray in the oven for 3-5 minutes, making sure they don't burn. Once cooled, chop the nuts up.

Step 3: Melt your chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, add your vanilla extract and coffee granules (optional), and mix gently.

Step 4: Incorporate your sugar slowly into the mixture, and then add your whisked eggs, mixing gently.

Step 5: Fold in your flour and a pinch of salt, and stir in half of the toasted nuts. Pour into a greased baking tray.

Step 6: Sprinkle your raspberries a little with flour, and place on top of the brownie mix in your baking tray. Gently press them down so they're not right at the bottom, but also not poking out of the top too much.

Step 7: Bake for 20-30 minutes, and leave to cool. Once completely cool, cut your brownies into squares, and enjoy!

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Settling In: My Week in Snapshots

21 Oct 2014
Okay so remember that post I wrote about misfortunes in France? Remember how stressed out and irritated I was by everything? Well I think I'm finally settled. As in, I don't want to get on the next plane back to England everyday and I kind of really, really like this place.

I mean, it's certainly not been plain sailing, and I still love England, and get stressed out by mundane everyday hassles here, but I am feeling so much happier than even just two weeks ago. I feel like Montpellier is my home now and I'm content here. It's still terrifying, but it's my home and I adore the city.

I've been on top of my game when it comes to Instagram (if that's even a thing/ something to be proud of), so here are a few of my highlights from the week:

Promenade du Peyrou
The first two pictures were taken in Promenade du Peyrou, which is about 5 minutes walk my apartment building, and yet I'd never even been there! I think I was kind of scared by the stories of strange people lurking there, but I went on a lazy, sunny Sunday with a few friends and we had a lovely, relaxing time.

L'Arc du Triomphe
All major French cities seem to have these! I see this every morning when I walk to Uni because it's on the road right next door to my building, and there is always person after person taking photos of it from in the middle of the road! It's pretty beautiful, and is a great representation of the beauty of the city on a whole.

Nights Out
This was before the many shots... 
But seriously, a great night out with great company never fails to put me in a good mood, and last Friday certainly didn't disappoint. Despite the club being quite empty, I had a really good time!

Lattes & Postcard Shopping
I am addicted to postcards. I'm currently developing a postcard wall (and thinking of possibly writing a post on some of my favourites?), and there is the most wonderful shop in Montpellier that is postcards galore. One of these was a Mark Twain quote, and the others were classic black and white photographs.

Coffee & Cupcakes
As we all know, caramel is my favourite flavour, so obviously this is a caramel cupcake. It was from Cupcakes by Lila where myself and some friends spent a good few hours nattering away and admiring the beautiful vintage decor! This shop is quite literally three doors down from me, and reminds me so much of adorable cake shops you get in England!

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The Beautiful Vaison-la-Romaine

19 Oct 2014

Time for another day trip post from the South of France? I think so. 

Fortunately for me, my flatmate's family own a little holiday home in the beautiful Provence, in a charming little town called Vaison-la-Romaine, and I was able to go and visit it a few weekends ago. It was honestly such a lovely change from the bustling city of Montpellier, and I had such a relaxing weekend! It felt like I was on holiday again and I even managed to forget about the many stresses of everyday life for a while...

After a spot of sunbathing in the garden, we ventured out for a wonder around the beautiful landscape and various Roman ruins in Vaison. Once again we were ridiculously lucky with the weather, and the sun was beaming down on us for the whole weekend. As someone who doesn't spend much time in hot countries usually I am looking preeeetty tanned right now!

The town also features a wonderful bridge (as do most picturesque French towns!).

We then made our way up the cobbled streets and steeps slopes, passing some lovely buildings on the way.

I'm absolutely in love with how colourful everything is here! I mean don't get me wrong, there's definitely something homely and comforting about the red brick and grey stone which you find everywhere in England, but the cream buildings and colourful shutters here are always so enchanting and charming.

Even the signs here show so much character...

Much to my delight, we kept on walking past these kinds of black and white pictures just mounted onto the outside of buildings. They weren't even little, they were big, big pictures! You could tell that each one had a story behind it, even the ones picturing everyday life like this one above!

We eventually reached some pretty spectacular viewing points, and this was probably the point where I felt most like I was on holiday, and also kind of missed my family a lot. I've always experienced these kinds of places with them in the past, and I'm used to being dragged up many a mountain and hill with them. Funnily enough, I actually enjoy hiking and all that malarkey now that I'm older and more appreciative!

After gradually making our way back down the hill, we wondered round the various shops...

This little Chocolaterie had a beautiful array of chocolates to sample throughout the shop, so naturally I jumped at the opportunity and ended up with five different tasty samples. Sorry not sorry!

After a potter around the town and the various adorable independent stores (can you tell how much I love all the shops around here yet?), my legs were in need of some rest and my stomach was in need of a snack so we stopped in a nearby café.

Naturally, we both ordered a crepe, and naturally, it was the classic chocolate and banana combination. You know when you have a favourite flavour combination and every time you go somewhere you convince yourself that you'll try something new... and it just never happens because you're never willing to take the risk that it's not quite as good? Well that's my attitude towards crepes.

All in all it was a lovely, very relaxing weekend and a great way to make the most of the weather before we move into November and the temperature actually starts to drop here!

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That Cute Little Café In France...

17 Oct 2014
Most streets you go down in Montpellier have multiple enticing looking cafés and restaurants, and they are pretty much all independent. This is one of my favourite things about the place, because it's something which you just don't find in England enough. Sure, we have an abundance of lovely chains, but there's something special about local, independent places. Each is unique in its own way, and each café has its own specialised menu and beautiful decor. It's really no wonder all people seem to do in their spare time here is drink (normally very strong coffee) in the nearest bustling square...

Last week, myself, Rowan and Anna took a trip down to Café Noisette which we go past everyday on the tram to university, but have never actually gone inside.

One of the things I have found with French cafés and restaurants, is that they really don't go for the large, varied menus. It does mean that they can do what they do offer very well, but for someone like me whose taste buds have yet to flourish (will I ever like the taste of seafood?!), I sometimes struggle with the minimal menu approach. So we were faced with the option of either burgers, or a fancy sounding salad. All three of us picked the salad because it really did sound quite appealing, and I know how great the French are with their salads...

It was as tasty as it looked, and I particularly loved the crunchy onions that they put on top of the tartine. They seem to do that a lot here, and although my friends seem to hate it, it's perfect for me! The fruit and veg here in general is great so unsurprisingly the salad also seemed deliciously fresh.

To drink, I had a Chai Latte, which I must say was nice but nowhere near as good as the likes of places in England. There was one very strong flavour coming through and I could barely taste any cinnamon! First stop when I arrive in Gatwick in a few weeks? Starbucks.

For dessert, Anna went for a delicious looking cake and I have literally completely forgotten what it was! 

I of course jumped at the chance to try one of their yummy looking cupcakes...

I chose a 'Praline' cupcake, which consisted of a deliciously nutty sponge and a passion fruit inside. It seemed like a somewhat bizarre combination, but actually worked so well! There was also of course a caramel sauce drizzled over it which suited my constant desire for the flavour very well.

This made me miss my oven a lot, and I have promised my friends here an endless supply of cupcakes when we finally do get one (hopefully in two weeks!)

The general decor reminded me of cute little English coffee shops, and they are literally everywhere around Montpellier! These little Pastry Chef kits displayed looked absolutely adorable and like so much fun, we were tempted to buy one for ourselves but it would be useless with no oven!

I just think that this quote is absolutely perfect for a café like this where you can lounge about on the sofas, surrounded by beautiful decoration, wonderful company and scrumptious food. What more can we ask for in life?!

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