Normandie <3

Dieppe Normandie

A long weekend in Normandie is enough to restore your faith in the humanity (or at least in French people). Therefore we end up going there time and time again. There is also something quite nordic about Normandie, rough wind, unruly sea… not to mention the red nosed wannabe sailors. Maybe that’s why I always feel like home there.

Distance by train from Paris is reasonable, most destinations are not more than 2-3 hours train ride away from the center of Paris. But be aware, we are not talking about comfortable TGV high speed trains but the infamous Intercité or TER connections… This means no marked seats, no extra place for luggage.. so avoid going back to Paris when everyone else does if you can. Yesterday afternoon our train Rouen – Paris was so full that one grandma actually fainted.

Dieppe Normandie

This Easter we discovered Dieppe, a recommendation from a friend who used to live in Rouen. The city didn’t instantly charm us, but the people did. The first time we stopped and hesitated which way to go to our Airbnb, a lady approached us asking if we need help, and proposed to give us a ride our accommodation as she lived close by. When we ventured out from our place to lovely Esplanade du Château, people greeted us with “Bonjour” whenever we passed them. Also our B&B hosts were just lovely. After Paris, such kindness almost brings tears to my eyes. While in Paris people try so hard to not to see other people that they almost walk over them and often lack the most basic manners, it feels good that people acknowledge your existance. We had a smile on our faces for three days in a row and again sweared that we will move outside of Paris or at least get a summer house in Normandy (we say this everytime and everywhere when we go outside of Paris).

Dieppe Normandie

If you are after the sea, delicious sea food, relaxing walks and avoiding Parisians as we did, Dieppe is a perfect destination for you. The falaises surrounding the city are grand and the beach is quite impressive. In cute port de plaisance, the harbour area, you will find plenty of relaxed restaurants serving fresh fish. But don’t expect anything lively, we were the last couple in a restaurant when it was closing, around 10 pm… I can recommend “Les bains de Dieppe”, they have heated outdoor pools and spa sections with a few different pools, sauna and hammam. They propose different treatments too, but you better book well in advance. With unexpected sunshine on Sunday, Dieppe was for us exactly what doctor ordered, a very positive experience. The city may not be the most pittoresque destination in Normandy region, but it is a sympathetic one.

Dieppe Normandie

Dieppe Château Musée

If you are looking for a more animated destinations you better choose something like the twin cities Trouville and Deauville. If you are after great views over the falaises, try hiking around 20 km over the cliffs between Fécamp – Etretat. And a wild card, that is technically not even in Normandie but in Picardie (who knows the difference) is lovely Somme region, last year we spent Vappu (1st of May) weekend in Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, it was just perfect. So cute village and you might see some seals if you are lucky! We have tested and highly approved all the mentioned destinations and would be glad to go back anytime.

Dieppe beach

Next up in my plans is Bretagne, we never set a foot in there yet…

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Getting into Christmas mood (à l’alsacien)

Strasbourg

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s time to relax, look back on the past year and anticipate what the next year might bring. I’m not a total Christmas nut, for me Christmas spirit comes from putting on the Christmas lights in the window and burning a lot of candles and listening to Christmas music – preferably Sinatra. I’ve been sick with a flu lately so I had a good reason to be buried on my couch with a hot drink in one hand and a remote control in the other, watching the 6th season of Downton Abbey. This must be one of the best Christmas series ever. I have to also confess that we started watching the new Netflix series The Crown, and it is as good as I was expecting, I strongly recommend.

Luckily last weekend I was still up on my two feet as we headed to Strasbourg, the ultimate Christmas capital, for a weekend. The city was crowded as you can imagine, but it is definitely worth going to see the charming old city  and the amazing Christmas decorations. The Christmas market itself was a little bit of a disappointment or maybe I just had bad luck, but after waiting for my galettes de pomme de terre for more than 20 minutes, having them served cold, then asking to reheat them just to find out that they are not fresh at all, I was pretty bummed. Luckily vin chaud can never disappoint you, so stick to that! More positive experience was the Portuguese market and the OFF market, they seemed to have more fresh stuff. If you decide to go, do make a reservation for a restaurant in the evening, especially if you want to eat something local around 7 – 9 pm all the places are full. We ended up eating pizza in an Italian restaurant, luckily it was delicious, but not very alsacien… In the evening we also did a little cruise on the river, it was very nice actually as you get to hear about the history of the city and see the main places along the river.

You can pretty much see Strasbourg in one day, so on Sunday we continued our road trip to Baden Baden in Germany to visit the Caracalla baths and spent 3 hours in different pools and saunas. Wonderful experience with both outdoor and indoor pools and saunas, all this for 19 euros, totally worth a little detour on the way back to city. Driving back to Paris is a bit long (big thanks to our chauffeur!) but it is worth it.

Strasbourg, I will definitely come back. Maybe in the summer for some wine tasting… But next destination will be Finland, Yay! Can’t wait to breath some fresh air after all the pollution in Paris in the past days and weeks. I keep my fingers crossed to see some snow up North.

Strasbourg

Strasbourg

Strasbourg

Strasbourg

Things I miss from Finland

Sunset in Ruka Finland in early December

I have always been adapting easily to any environment and I do take pride in not being the home sick type. I was 18 years old when I left to work in France in a hotel in Roissy near Charles de Gaulle airport for 6 months. I was young and clueless, but even then it was easier for me to move to France than to come back home. After having spent one semester as an exchange student in Montréal and having a lot of fun I remember feeling a bit blue the whole summer when it was over. Not to mention leaving Tunisia after more than a year, having the time of my life and then settling back to Finland, leaving also the love of my life there.

However after 3 year and a 3 months exactly in France, there are plenty of things that I miss from Finland. I adapted to Paris quite easily but at times I do get home sick. Everyday life here can be quite frustrating at times (as in any big city ?) and more and more I do see the good side of good old Finland. I of course miss the family and friends the most, but besides of that, there are plenty of other things I long for…

Food and drinks. I guess you always miss the food from home. Finland is not very known for its cuisine, but after overdosing the first years in France on baguettes, cheese and red wine, I’m done. I miss the Finnish selection of different rye and wholegrain breads and of course the famous Karelian pies . Actually nowadays a baguette makes me see red. I miss the Edam cheese from Arla (Finns, you know what I mean). Sometimes I even dream of Prisma hypermarket. And I definitely miss Alko. The wines are delicious and mostly cheap in France, but I miss the selection of world wines. Ok ok, actually I just miss the tags with description of the wine and recommendations for food to accompany it, so easy! Have you ever opened a bottle of white wine after a hard day at work and had to spit it out as it was a sweet wine? Well I have and that is utterly disappointing. It will never happen if you buy wine from Alko. From non-alcoholic drinks I do miss normal fat-free milk. A cold glass of milk after a workout, with a meal, or even when you are hangover. Won’t happen in France with that UHT milk. Damn you.

Nature. While I was living in Espoo 20 minutes bus ride away from Helsinki city center, I went to cross country skiing in the winter time straight from my front door on the best days. In worst case I walked 300 metres with the skis on my shoulder and then I was in the forest, famous Espoo central park. Such a joy. One winter I skied until early April as it was so cold (what happened ever since – climate change?). But what I miss the most is definitely the sea. Baltic sea may not be the friendliest of the seas, but it is awesome to live by it. Nothing but a fresh sea breeze to make you feel better. And if the “city” life is too much, you just escape to family cottage by the lake which is literally in the Middle of Nowhere. Oh yes, we like nature and we don’t like neighbors.

Organization and honesty. In Finland you can pretty much rely on what people say. In France you need to be ready to fight for everything. People will tell you with a straight face that something is your fault, when it isn’t. Of course there are difficult people also in Finland, but at least you can trust authorities. If you go to a public office, you can pretty much get the things done without a hassle, your papers won’t get lost (oopsie!). Before I moved to France I had never sent a registered letter, as we trust people in public offices. Actually I didn’t even send letters since you can do everything online or over the phone. In Finland you get pretty much through any major changes in your life (changing a flat, a job, being sick), without having to print a wheelbarrow full of papers, having a check book, sending a lettre recommendée

These are the first things that come in my mind when I think what I miss from Finland. And these are things I certainly took for granted when living in Finland. Of course we have also one of the best education and healthcare system in the world, but enough bragging for now. Maybe, probably, all of this will be boringly safe and dull if I move back one day, but now let me light two candles for the Finnish Independence Day and feel le mal du pays. 

Holiday at home

Parisian Balcony

Hey y’all. It has been a long weekend in Paris. Today is a Toussaint, All Saints’ Day, so I took also the Monday off to have a little mini break. This time I had no trips ahead and stayed in Paris, not too bad after a few hectic months. Actually I feel more rested than in a long time! Here are some of my favorite things during this mini holiday at home:

  • Sunshine in November
  • Geraniums in my French balcony that are still blooming
  • The Lebanese coffee table that I found on Sunday from our neighbourhood’s Vide-Grenier, sort of a street flea market that is organized about once a year in each Parisian neighbourhood
  • Baraka documentary (oldie but goodie)
  • Home yoga videos, I’m currently hooked on Yoga with Adriene
  • Ping pong match in the park (except when I lose and that’s often)
  • Jogging in Petite Ceinture, old railway line close to our place
  • Walking late in the evening and listening to Finnish top 50 from Spotify
  • Sleeping and reading a book in bed
  • Did I mention sleeping?
  • Having coffee or dinner with friend(s)
  • Uusi Muusa that finally opened today (Yep it is in Finnish)
  • Icelandic Police series Trapped 
  • Homemade Guacamole with nachos

Oh yes, I think this might have been one of the best holidays ever. Tomorrow back to the office, but before that, a movie night (with Guacamole of course)!

Calm weekend (tranquilo)

When you start using expressions like hijo de puta and plata in your daily life, you know you’ve been watching too much Narcos.  Still one episode left of the second season. Good thing about this TV marathon is that my Spanish is coming back, all those two beginners courses that I took back in the Uni. I’m not sure when I can use my revived skills though (*dreaming of a holiday in Mexico…) and if people will appreciate the gangster Spanish I’ve learned. Continue reading