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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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La Belle Ville De Sète

13 Oct 2014

Warning: This post contains photos taken in the glorious sunshine in October. Apologies in advance to those currently in cold and rainy climates. Jealousy may occur.

The sunshine came back to the South of France and so we took the opportunity to go and visit one of the beautiful towns nearby and boy, was it picturesque. My mood was quite literally sky high for the whole day because it was so lovely and we were so lucky with the weather! If anyone is ever around the Languedoc-Roussillon region theSète is a must. An absolute must.

10 Things to Love & Appreciate about The UK

11 Oct 2014
There are a lot of great things about France, but there are also a lot of great things about the UK, and living in France has highlighted a few things that I will seriously appreciate when I return to England. So to all of those who are in the UK right now, please appreciate these things on my behalf? (Especially the food related ones, preferably by making blogposts that I can drool over.)

1. Reasonable Opening Hours
When you work in a shop and you want lunch in Britain, you take your lunch break. You have your sandwich or your catch up with your pal down the road, and then you go back. None of this 'let's all take three hours for lunch and inconvenience everyone by closing the whole shop down' malarky.

Snapshots From My 21st Birthday Celebrations

9 Oct 2014
So after a whole day of flooding and torrential rain, the skies finally cleared just in time for my actual birthday last Tuesday (thank you mother nature). 
I honestly think I had one of the best birthdays that I've ever had in the past few years, which is probably down to the people and the fact that I was never on my own for any of it (extroverts dream!)
Kir Royal: Myself and my flatmate started the celebrations the night before whilst we were stuck inside with some Kir Royal pictured above on some lovely French coasters from our trip to Carcassonne. 
Jellyfish: My birthday itself began with a trip to the nearby aquarium to see the penguins, sharks, stingrays and all sorts of other sea animals! We all felt like excited children for the whole day and it was a great start to my birthday.

La Cité Médiévale de Carcassonne

5 Oct 2014
Hey all,

It's time for another day trip story and some photos, and this one involves lots of Rosé, some raw chicken, castles and a downpour of torrential rain.

The cité de Carcassonne is a lovely little medieval village type place in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, about an hour and 45 minutes from Montpellier. My flatmate and I are still in the process of creating a bucket list for the year, and Carcassonne was top of our list as one of the places to go whilst the weather is still quite beaut. Little did we know that come 4 o'clock and there would be a sudden downpour for about 5 hours and we would be trapped in this village where there was minimal shelter and all the shops had closed! But it's all about the experience, right?

Anyway, here goes:

My One Month Anniversary In France: Floods, Adjusting & An Apartment Update

3 Oct 2014
Okay guys, it's officially been a month since I moved to France. It's crazy seeing friend's Facebook statuses and tweets about how they can't believe their year abroad 'has begun so soon', when here I am having almost hit the one month mark already! 

In all honesty I still haven't got into the swing of things with university/being a student, and it still pains me to go onto campus when I know I'll only understand half of the lectures, but I feel like I am slowly (very slowly), getting to grips with things. The main issue I have with French Universities is that the lectures are 1.5 - 3 hours long, which realistically was never going to work out for me. Think of all those hour long lectures in England and how you switch off after about 30 minutes (or at least I do)... then imagine having to sit for another few hours! At first it was an absolute nightmare, and I found myself drifting off in every single lesson, getting back into the zone and then realising I had no idea what the teacher was talking about or what I had missed. I'm gradually paying more attention though and feel like by the end of the semester I might've got the hang of things... slightly!

I've also signed up for evening French language classes, and although they are at the unbearable time of 6-8pm on Tuesday and Thursday, I know I need them! It's hard to be confident enough to speak French when I'm with friends here because I just assume that they're better/ more confident than me and leave it up to them. It's such a silly mindset to get into and quite hard to get out of, but hopefully these evening classes are a step in the right direction!

My apartment is now almost fully furnished, we are still awaiting some more chairs and a 'banquette' which could be a sofa or a bench (fingers crossed it's a sofa!) but the landlady has actually provided most of the stuff that she promised finally! The bad news is that our boiler broke a few days ago and we aren't expecting anyone to fix it until Tuesday. I feel like I might as well be camping because right now I have to boil the kettle and have a sponge bath instead of a proper shower! Not cool. We've also managed to kit it out with a few decorative bits and bobs and make it feel so much more homely.

On Tuesday it was my 21st birthday and I think I had the best birthday I've had in a long time. Monday was not a good day because we were caught up in monsoon like rain and storms, which resulted in a 'vigilance rouge' aka red alert being sounded! It freaked me out a bit because although I'm used to rain, this was really quite something else. The trams stopped running and some of my friends were stuck at uni for hours because they couldn't get a tram home nor could they attempt to wade through the knee deep water home! If you want to see some pictures (which I thought were fake until I walked outside myself) then here is a good article and some great pictures. Fortunately everything had cleared up by the next day so I could actually enjoy my birthday properly, and I think I was just so glad that the floods had been Monday that anything would've made me happy on that day!

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