Saturday, December 22, 2012

Au Marché de Noël

If you visit the Place du Capitole de Toulouse during this time of the year, you will find yourself surrounded by various delicacies and produce of Southern France and also from the rest of the world.

You have the famous nougats and candied fruit stands

These candied fruits are oozing with sugary sweetness... gives me toothache just by looking at them

Nougats are extra-soft and chewy here in France, but also extra-expensive

Some tea to go with the sweets

You wouldn't believe how crazy they are about tea in these parts... good for me!

Various spices from abroad

Spices, mostly of African origin

Some Himalayan and pink rock salts

Some well-loved local snacks

Aligot and Tartiflette stand -- these snacks are made from potatoes and cheese -- both of which are staple food here in France

And hot wine to beat the cold.

I should try this

There was also entertainment for the kids.

Stage show for kids

And for the not-so-young ones.

You can throw pie on this guy's face for a Euro

This year, we went during the day, but last year we went during the evening, and it looked like this:

Le Marché de noël 2011 par nuit

Bonne fête et joyeux noël, tout le monde!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Homemade Holiday Treats

last year i tried my hand at making pastillas de leche to give away to friends as a Christmas treat.

my very own, homemade yema balls in paper cups, stacked neatly in a bright yellow plastic glass

it was easy to make and you don't need so many ingredients.  wrapping up the stuff was tiresome though.

it helps to have a measuring spoon to have some uniformity with the size of the balls

this year, i tried to make some yema balls instead. courtesy of this recipe.

nuts and dried fruits

 i've decided to include some personal touch and minor revisions on the recipe. so i added a variety of other nuts, not just peanuts in the mixture.

sprinkling over a bit more ground nuts for aesthetics

it proved to be a tiresome and tedious task yet again.

i ran out of paper cups so i had to improvise some plastic wrappers out of the mini-gift bags that i bought in Daiso (a Japanese store in Singapore) as wrappers.

but since i love giving away Filipino treats to my friends during the holiday season, i decided to make that once-in-a-year effort, which, i would venture to say, was well-appreciated.  :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wine Dégustation

last Saturday, it was my first time to attend a wine dégustation (wine tasting) here in France.

some finger food to go with the wine

The wine comes from a friend's friend's wine produce from Bordeaux. This is a famous region in the south of France where wine of prime quality comes from. it was a good experience, even made better when shared with friends.

the name of the wine is usually the family name of the owner

you know it's a very good wine when it doesn't have any advertisement at all at the back of the bottle, like this one. it only has the label in front.

Hubby and I bought a box of six, with a mix of their produce from 2010 and 2011. For sure, winter will be a lot less dreary and a lot less of a misery if you have the company of a good wine at hand.

For wine lovers, click here for further info.

* this article also appeared on the afpmp web site.

Monday, November 5, 2012

La Toussaint

To commemorate the day of the dead, hubby and I visited his dead relatives at the cemetery in Millau.

We brought flowers.

My beau-père offering flowers for his grandparents
And stood quietly in front of the grave for a few moments.

They only give chrysanthemums to the dead, apparently

 I told my father-in-law that All Saints Day here is so solemn and quiet.  In the Philippines, ASD is like a picnic/party in the cemetery.  And so he says their way of celebrating ASD is a lot less expensive.

the eerie quiet and the mountains -- like a scene from an Edgar Allan Poe story/poem
I agree.

Le destin a fait son chemin mais il n'a jamais separé nos coeurs
Destiny has parted our paths but we have never separated our hearts

Expensive or not, what really counts in the end is whether or not we've managed in our busy schedule, to sincerely lend some of our precious time to dispense warm thoughts for those loved ones who have long departed.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Titre de séjour

Ten thousand papers and many moons later, I finally got mytitre de séjour. For those who do not know, this is a card that entitles you to live and work for a certain period in France.

Before I started living here in France, I processed everything that I needed to be able to stay here for a long time with my husband back in Singapore. I got a visa from the embassy which is valid for a year's stay. And upon my arrival here, I needed to undergo a medical exam and several not-so-useful seminars regarding the country's history, social integration, and blah blah blah, to be able to get a stamp on my passport that says I have completed all the necessary requirements to be able to stay here for a year.

And now that this visa expired, I had to undergo another set of tiresome procedures to be able to get that titre de séjour that will allow me to stay in this country for yet another year, detailed as follows:

1. First and foremost, you have to call this OFII office to ask them what you have to do for the renewal. It’s not always the same all the time, from what I gather. After several attempts at calling, my husband finally had the luck to be answered by a human at the other end of the line, and he found out that I'd have to wait for a letter from them stating that I have met all the requirements to stay here for a year, the requirements being those seminars and medical exam that I took upon arrival.

2. Upon receiving the letter in step 1, you have to go to the prefecture of your region to get the list of requirements for the renewal. You cannot just simply ask this information over the phone or download the document containing the list on the internet, etc. because they like to make you queue for two hours just to get that all-important list. They will schedule an appointment for you to submit all the requirements in the so-called list. By now, you already know that everything in this country works only with appointments.

3. You submit the list on the day of your appointment. Note that this appointment is not the exact time that you will be served. They will make you wait at least two hours again, like the last time when you queued for the list, so it's no use to go there earlier than the time of your appointment. On this appointment, they will give you a piece of paper with your picture on it called récépissé de titre de séjour. It’s a paper saying that your titre de séjour is in progress. It will be valid for two months.

4. After a month, you will receive a letter that your titre de séjour is now ready for claiming at the prefecture. Thank god, during this time, there is no need for an appointment. You just go there and take a queue number.

5. You go to the prefecture to claim your titre de séjour and have to pay 106 euros of timbres fiscaux (tax stamps). This timbre fiscaux is something you buy outside of the prefecture. You can usually get them at places called Tabac Presse, a small convenience store like 7-11. I went to the prefecture on a very rainy day, so there were very few people in the queue, so that this time, I only waited an hour to finally get it.

The maddening crowd at the prefecture the first time I went there to get the list of requirements for the titre de séjour

And then again, you may or may not have to repeat all of these steps for the renewal of the titre de séjour next year. And you have to note that this card is not even what they call a residence card. To be able to get this one, you'll have to stay for god knows how many number of years in this country first, enough to accumulate heaps or mounds of thousands of papers that they will require of you. Franchement, it's not very environment-friendly.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When in Rome


wear comfortable shoes 

shirt and shoes: H&M Toulouse
jeans: Uniqlo Singapore
bag: Gérard Darel Paris
bracelet: turquoise from Nepal
necklace: Claire's Toulouse
silk scarf on my hair: courtesy of a friend from Japan 
beautiful smile on my face: courtesy of Roma and that guy holding the camera
 all my friends who saw my Rome pictures loved these comfy red shoes that i was wearing.  they sure were comfortable and quite cheap for 9 euros.  but remember, never use shoes in Rome that you have never used before.  they will be uncomfortable because they're new and haven't adjusted to your feet's proportions yet.

Rome's streets are made for walking.  not just because they are narrow and maze-like.  but also because of the beautiful sights that all its hidden alleys offer.  you'll be missing a lot if you're not the walking type.

visit the Vatican City

the glittery ceiling of St Peter's Basilica

the nautilus stairway of the Vatican Museum
 isn't it such fun to visit two countries all in one day?

be amongst the beauteous naked statues

i just totally lurrrved the naked statues of Roma, especially the ones in the huge fountains at Piazza Navona.
tossing a coin that was accidentally thrown at me by a visually-impaired nun in the crazy crowd
you think my wish will still be granted? :)
 we don't have these nude statues in the Philippines.  buti pa nga sa Vatican (and they're supposed to be conservative catholics) meron.  pero sa tin, wala talaga.  and for this sole reason, i can never totally agree that it's MORE fun in the Philippines.

have lunch at one of the finest trattorias in the city

trattoria, as recently heard from a friend, is an Italin word which means a family-owned restaurant.  it is an absolute must to eat there.  not only for authentic Italian food but also to get a glimpse of what Italians are like because they tend to eat there, and not at the usual tourist hotspots.

prosciutto with mozzarella and fresh basil
the mozzarella in our antipasti was made from real buffalo's milk.  and it tasted so fresh.  mmm...

best pasta alle vongole ever.  the clams were so fresh.

i don't usually drink espresso, but i made an exception this time

we had lunch at this restaurant called Trattoria Romana La Taverna quite a few meters away from Il Colosseo.  it was good that we got there early because shortly after, there was a huge crowd waiting to be seated outside.  everybody wants to eat al fresco on such a nice day like this!  especially me.

we also dined in another trattoria at Campo de'Fiori called Grotti di Teatro di Pompeo.  i don't have pictures of the food and the place because i don't like to take pictures in the evening.  i like to keep the dinner time picture-free.  besides, low-light photography is not really my specialty.

in this trattoria, the waitress, who i guess is also the owner was so nasty and rude.  almost like the ones in Hong Kong.  but in a different kind of way.  the pasta arabiata was not really anything out of the ordinary but their version of millefeuille is to die for.  but whatever they tell you, don't order the grappa (digestif).

have an authentic Italian pizza

this pizza at a restaurant called Margherita, close to the Pantheon was not bad at all
especially if your date is craving for one like a crazed ninja turtle.

eat the best gelato in town, preferrably at Piazza di Spagna

Il Gelato di San Crispino's Crema al Cacao con Rum
i thought i would have to go far away to find Il Gelato di San Crispino, that gelateria made famous by the movie Eat Pray Love (i hated that movie, but i love gelato, so...).  but i was surprised to find that they opened a branch right next to the Pantheon.  it was very convenient because our hotel was just a few meters away from there.

recreating that famous Roman Holiday scene -- one more item off my "to-do" list ;)

finding the Piazza di Spagna was not very difficult at all.  you just need to follow the multitudes.  you don't even need to walk.  the crowd will carry you there like a tsunami.

buy something hand-made in Roma

preferably something in leather, like mine.  it will be a good souvenir.  but of course, the best souvenir of all are the good and fun memories. and what better way to capture and document these memories than with pictures.  and so, that would be the best advice of all -- when in Rome, do take the best quality of pictures.  p.s. it helps to shoot RAW. ;)

Monday, September 24, 2012


Captive's poster on the door of a very inconspicuous
art cinema called, Utopia right next to Galeries Lafayette

i hate to admit it but the first time i've seen a Brillante Mendoza movie, called Serbis, i just didn't like it.  perhaps it's because lately i've come to prefer watching stupid comedy movies.  i had enough of the serious ones that usually lure you into believing there is something more to it than what it is.  only to find out in the end that it's just another piece of pretentious bullshit.

as for his Cannes film festival winner, Kinatay (Butchered), i seem to feel a kind of aversion towards the title.  it calls to mind traumatic scenes from my childhood like seeing our neighbor bash a dog on the head to kill it and to later eat it.  they even gave some of the cooked dog meat to me without me knowing at first that it was a dog.  so that i had already eaten some of it beforehand.  it also calls to mind that not-so-favorite scene in the Lord of the Flies with a pig's head at the end of a spear with flies hovering.  and of course, my Lola, mercilessly slitting the throats of a hundred live chickens per hour, the day before a town feast.  so i doubt if i will ever get myself to see this movie.

it's not that i never watch violent movies.  i mean i totally loved Kill Bill, and Taxi Driver is one of my favorite movies of all time.  but somehow, when the words are in Filipino, like kinatay, it just sounds a thousand times more bloody and gory to me.

anyways, about Captive, i managed to promote the movie to the Filipino Community (AFPMP) here in Toulouse.  and one of the french members managed to actually find a cinema (Utopia) that would show the movie here.  the cinema only featured art films.  and i was relieved that they do not dub the movies in french, like most theaters here usually do.  although, i had to resort to reading the french subtitles from time to time when the characters were speaking in Visayan dialect.

first of all, i loved the theater.  it was really old of course.  and it seats only a few people.  i was quite surprised to see a lot of people actually watching it.  and the night before, i even saw one TV show (Le Grand Journal sur Canal plus) doing a short movie review about it.  and they actually raved about it! :)

like all the reviews say, it was quite repetitive. and some say they feel as if there's no message or there's something lacking.

as for me, i liked it.  not raving about it.  but i just liked it.  it's kinda ironic that the movie title is Captive.  as for me, i found it quite a liberating experience to watch this movie.  very few movies actually let you think for yourself what to make of what you watch or experience.  this one does.  and it's total freedom from the usual boring captivity of a dull and predictable movie that already tells you everything you would see, or want to know about just from the title itself.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Weekend in Bilbao

Bilbao is the capital of Biscaya in northernmost Spain, which is in the Basque Country. The Basque Country is a region consisting of areas in the north of Spain and the Southwest of France.

I have already been to some of the cities in the Basque region a couple of years ago the first time I visited France and Spain. I have visited San Sebastian, Spain for shopping, and St Jean de Luz, France to see the beach. I didn't have such a nice time back then because I was disappointed with the paella that we had for lunch, and the super-crowded beach that looked as if there was no beach at all, just bodies of people, in various stages of nudity, lying next to the ocean. Sorry to all the pervs, but I was too grumpy then to take a picture.

The famous puppy by American artist, Jeff Koons

The magnificent building of the Guggenheim Museum
Anyway, we went to Bilbao because we specifically wanted to see the famous Guggenheim Museum.  It is quite an impressive building that greets you upon entering the heart of the city via the Salve Bridge.
The Salve Bridge view from the Guggenheim

Inside the museum was a temporary exhibit by David Hockney.  His paintings were so vivid and colorful.  The bucolic sceneries in his pantings looked as if they were trying desperately to jump out of the frame. My husband says they looked as if they were painted by somebody who was high on drugs.

The museum features exhibits from David Hockney
Inside the Guggenheim
Tulips by Jeff Koons

We also went to Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum), which features an exhibit of Francisco de Goya's prints, depicting the horrors and atrocities of war, to which I would say that I still prefer to see the Japanese woodblock prints anytime. The collection inside was huge, though, compared to the Guggenheim. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside.

Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao featuring prints by Goya

I was very impressed with the architecture. Most buildings are painted in the typical Basque colors of red green and blue. It's all so colorful. And cheerful.

Lovely Basque buildings
One of the lovely buildings at a roundabout close to our hotel

On the way to the Guggenheim, there was a park with lots of huge trees and fountains and interesting columns and pergolas of red bricks. In one corner there was a small piece of plaque commemorating the death of people who were victimized by terrorism. Apparently, these terrorists are a group of people who are fighting for the Basque country to be independent.

Last stop at Plaza Nueva, a rather ironic name for such a place with old-world neoclassical architecture,
located at the Old Quarter

We were quite surprised to find some good food too. Now we all know that Spain is famous for the Tapas. In Basque language (Euskara), which is one of the oldest languages in the world, it is called, pintxo. I didn't have such high hopes at first because I was previously disappointed with the food in Barcelona and San Sebastian. But this time, I was just so glad to be not disappointed at all.

Picture-perfect and mouth-wateringly delicious pintxos for lunch

I just love this Spanish white wine

Les jambons et les saucisses... can you imagine the smell inside this shop?

We were not just interested in the architecture and the museums, we were also interested in shopping!

Souvenirs at the Old Quarter
This area reminds me so much of St Jean de Luz

A lovely soaps and perfume shop at the Old Quarter
I had a marvelous time in Bilbao. The people are nice, it's not very touristy, the food is glorious, especially the seafood, which they call mariscos. And above all, the service in the restaurants and in the shops are excellent -- with that, you'll know you're not in France anymore.  :)