French pastries and cakes: a complete illustrated guide

Anyone who’s travelled to France has surely walked into a French boulangerie or patisserie, only to find a colourful, spectacular (and sometimes overwhelming) array of delicious cakes, pastries and desserts in the vitrine.

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A first time visitor’s guide to Biarritz

France is a lot more than just long leafy boulevards and cafés on the terrace. For a long time, i’d only know Paris – but there were beaches out there, as well as villages, farms, canyons, and mountains, and many kinds of cheese. So, with a few friends, we road tripped for the weekend to see the south Atlantic coast of France.

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Vannes – a step back in time to medieval France

It was almost 2am when we finally arrived at Vannes station, on the west coast of France, by TGV. I was pretty excited at the thought of flashing through the countryside at 300km/h, turning cows, fields, and villages into one long smear of green and brown blurs. But it was dark, and I fell asleep from exhaustion, waking up with bleary eyes as red as the train’s.


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A scavenger hunt in Paris

I received an urgent radiotelegraph from Alysha in Australia a few weeks ago. A voice crackled over the radio, and immediately I rushed to my desk and placed my cup of tea next to me. It was an old oaken piece of furtniture, with wrought-iron drawer handles and wood deeply etched with the lines from a century of quill work. I placed the metal receiver to my ear and held the microphone…and listened. The crackle became a voice. The message contained a scavenger hunt list of things to find during my stay in Paris. So, I set out to find all the items on the list…

…That didn’t really happen, it was an email. But the list is real. Here goes.

Task 1: Les Invalides

The Hôtel des Invalides is a monument located in central Paris, not far from the Eiffel Tower. With it’s high stone walls, manicured Queen-of-hearts garden and resplendant golden dome as it’s unmistakable pinnacle, this huge building looks as though it was built to house a king; however it’s original purpose was to house French war veterans. These days, it serves as a military museum.

French cannons in Invalides, with no shortage of the Fleur de Lis

Find Napoleon’s tomb

Napoleon died in exile in 1821 on the island of St. Helena. In 1840, Napoleon’s body was moved from the island to Paris, where in Invalides, his final resting place, a massive tomb was being constructed. The tomb is open to the public now. The huge casket is the size of a small truck, and looks like a great big wooden footrest covered in melted chocolate. The tomb is in a still, quiet circular room behind the Invalides church, hewn into a circular pit and guarded by stone sentinels, ringed by carved names of great Napoloeonic war victories.

The enormous casket of Napoleon Bonaparte

Find Napolean’s horse Read more