Tag Archives: france

Dinner and a Movie at the Cannes International Film Festival

Michael and I have been traveling now for 54 weeks, 36 of which have been living and traveling in our van. We’ve been spending a lot of time together. We eat every meal together, we plan activities together, and we spend our downtime together. We have learned a lot about each other too, how grumpy Michael gets if he’s hungry, how emotional I am when I’m tired, and which foods make us gassy — you know, romantic stuff. At the beginning of our trip, when we were in Italy, we went for sushi (yes, you can get something other than pizza and pasta in Italy!). That evening I wore lipstick, and we talked about everything under the sun except plans for our trip. It was lovely! We called it date night. And since then, every three or four weeks, we go on a date night. There are a few rules to date night: I wear lipstick, we go out for dinner, and we don’t talk about poop.

We were in Cannes, France during the International Film Festival (is a sentence I never thought I would say). We found the perfect cheapskate parking spot for the van — free street parking on a side street right off the beach! We found out pretty quickly that it would be near impossible for us to get tickets to see an actual movie, so we spent our days on the beach in the sun, topless tanning, baguette eating, yacht watching, and helicopter spotting. It’s pretty swanky in Cannes on a normal day. Pack in a bunch of celebs, ‘wannabe’ celebs, and ‘I-wanna-see-celebs’ and you’ve got yourself some crazy energy.


I, for one, have never felt poorer in my life. Picture this: we meander down le Croisette, past the exclusive beach clubs with various coloured carpets out front, where the paparazzi snap coveted pictures of models and actors. Then we walk along the main road where shiny black vans with tinted windows pick up and drop off important people at the fanciest hotels. We wander past ritzy cafes, where the espresso costs €3.75, and then down to the golden beach. From here, we can see that the sky over the water is busy with helicopters flying between the yacht helipads and the helipad outside the red carpet theatre, and that the horizon is made up of mega yachts, one of which is painted gold. Then, we turn a corner, climb into our van and pee in a jar. Paparazzi, see me now!

On our last night in Cannes, we went out for a date night. It’s been a year since Michael took me for sushi in Florence. He paid that night, maybe he didn’t realize he’d have to stretch his savings for over a year when he decided to take care of such a big bill. So, on our last evening, a year, almost to the day, later I reciprocated that date. I took Michael for a beautiful meal at L’Assiette Provençale.


Before dinner, we bought a cheap AF bottle of wine at the supermarket, took it down to the beach, and enjoyed it in the sunset. There were lots of people on the beach; couples drinking wine or beer like us, a bunch of young teenagers being goofy in the sand, families soaking up the last minutes of daylight. It was great. We finished our bottle and meandered past the empty red carpet (everyone was inside watching a movie), to the restaurant.


For dinner, we ordered another bottle of wine — this one was much more expensive that the last. I had zucchini risotto to start, duck breast as my main, and the most meringued lemon meringue pie I’ve ever seen. Michael had roast vegetables with candied goat cheese to start, sea bass for his main, and creme brûlée for dessert. It was all so scrumptious.


When we left, the movie was out. The streets were flooded with flashing bulbs and crowd of people. We rushed through the crowd to get where we needed to be: the beach! A few years ago, the Film Festival began showing classic winning movies from festivals past, for free at a makeshift theatre on the main beach. This evening’s movie was Silence of the Lambs! I have never seen it, but it’s obviously a classic, and what cooler place to see it than in Cannes where it debuted? This might have been the fanciest ‘dinner and a movie’ date I’ve ever been on.

I can’t wait to see what Michael does next year to try and top this!


Read about our last date night in Sidi Ifni, Morocco here!

Driving through France with “France Passion”

There we were, in Germany, with our newly purchased campervan, Vinnie the Van, trying to figure out the quickest, and most beautiful way to get to the north of Spain. We knew we would have to drive through France, but we couldn’t decide which way to take — do we just speed through the country on the highways, or do we take the scenic route past Switzerland and down the south of France? Well, all the super fast highways in France are tolled, the degree to which is astronomical (we paid €27 for driving 200km!*), and driving past Switzerland and through the Alps along those winding mountain roads in a 1997 Ford Transit didn’t sound like my idea of a good time.

That’s when we discovered a third option — France Passion! France Passion is a program that’s been running for 25 years. Members are able to stay for free with farmers across the country. There are thousands of farmers taking part in the program. We purchased our year-long membership for €25, and it gave us access to an online guidebook that allowed us to plan our route according to length of the drive in between, and the kind of produce they made. It was the best way we could have imagined to get across France (I proudly say this without any sort of compensation from the company).


One of the “Golden Rules” of France Passion is that campers are not obligated to buy anything from the farm, but really, how could we not? What’s a few euros for a fresh snack from those who made it, especially when you aren’t paying for accommodation? France Passion is the ultimate cheapskate solution. As I mentioned, we mapped out our trip based on the food and goods we wanted to buy, so it wasn’t even a question if we would buy anything. We began our stops with Beaujolais wine (€12 for two bottles), enjoyed some charcuterie in Montregard (€4 for jar), and then followed the Route des Fromages (yes that’s a real thing!) to a farm that made the most delicious cheeses (€7 for two blocks!). We decided to try something new and drove to a fois gras farm (€10/ tin), and then finished our trip with a private vineyard tour of a winery in Bordeaux (€13 for two bottles).


If you are driving across France, in an RV or campervan, the average cost of a campground is €20-€25. Do yourself a flavour (haha!) and sign up for France Passion. For the same cost, you can stay for free at thousands of farms around France, and taste the sweet, sweet goods from the farmers themselves.

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*Not only did we pay €27 for about two and a half hours of highway driving, but also, the highways are not picturesque, and the gas prices are crazy high! When we switched to toll-free driving using Google Maps, we saw way more of the countryside, drove past beautiful little villages and towns, and paid a solid €0.25/Litre LESS for fuel. Take it from a cheapskate, unless you are desperate to make it through France in a day or two, avoid those toll roads, they just aren’t worth it!

Eating Escargot in Paris

June, 2013

This morning, my new friend Georgia suggested we go to Sacré Couer, the cathedral on the hill, in the sun, with a gorgeous view of Paris. Good idea! She deduced we could get off at the stop ‘Place de Clichy’ which she didn’t know how to pronounce, and so said, ‘Place de Thingy’. Off we went to the cathedral. We arrived at the correct station, and began our walk.


The cathedral came into sight and I was in awe. It is beautiful. We stopped at an ice cram stand nearby and bought a few scoops to enjoy on the hill. As we walked up the first steps, Georgia told me to hide my wrists. I was puzzled, but did as she said. We turned the corner and were accosted by vulturous men grabbing at our arms, trying to tie bracelets on our wrists, forcing us to buy them! I kept my head down and my arms crossed. I kept walking and ignoring him, and he finally left me alone. Phew. I checked Georgia’s wrists to ensure she had survived the trip too. Bracelet-less! Double phew! We found a spot halfway up the hill and set up camp. I ate my decadent Parisian ice cream and Georgia had a nap. I watched the people walking by, taking photos, holding hands, kissing, drinking beer, it was so lovely.


We were both quite hungry, and so grabbed a table on the patio of a cute little French bistro up the hill in Mont Marte. The waiters at this place were the flirtiest bunch I have ever encountered. We came to the conclusion that it is in their job description: clear plates, take orders, brush patron’s hair out of their eyes, constantly wink and smile. We ordered a carafe of Bordeaux.


Maybe it was the delicious red wine, maybe it was the flirtatious French men, maybe it was just the love in the air. Whatever it was, I was inspired to take the leap and try escargot! The little snails arrived to the table in a funny little dish, and they smelled amazing. You know what? I actually really liked it! How could I not? Anything doused and cooked in that much garlic and butter is going to be an instant hit with me. They tasted kind of like mussels. I was quite pleased with my French wine and my French dish and flirtatious French waiters. We finished our wine and paid the bill. As we left, the waiters grabbed at us, tried to pet our chins, touched our arms, kissed our hands. I was amazed, and totally uncomfortable. We walked past the cathedral and down the hill, guarding our wrists again from the bracelet vultures.


We found the metro stop and it was time to say goodbye to Georgia. One of the the most amazing things about traveling is how quickly you can make friends, and then as quickly as you connected, they are gone like the wind. I think it is such a magical thing to be able to share a beautiful day or two days, or week, or whatever, with someone, divulge all your dreams and hopes and fears, and then part ways. With a stranger is the safest place to keep a secret

The Top of the Arc du Triomphe in Paris

June  2013

With a grumble in my tummy, I walked out of my hotel and past a few different cafes. I walked into one called Hippopotamus and sat at a lovely table on their patio. In my endearing broken French, I ordered a glass of red wine and the salmon. Next thing I know, the waitress brought over a 1/2 litre carafe of red wine. Oh boy. My French really isn’t that good. I guess I ordered a carafe?


About half way through my main course, I looked at the sky and marvelled at the changing colours. I had the thought, I should go up to the top of the Arc Du Triomphe and watch the sunset! Oh my gosh! I should go up to the top of the Arc Du Triomphe!!!!!! I quickly paid, finished the carafe of wine, and was out of the restaurant in a flash. I channeled my inner Carrie Bradshaw and whistled at the nearest cab. “Arc du Triomphe,” I said! He stepped on it! He asked which do I like better, Canada or Paris, and I said I liked both for different reasons. Secretly, I answered, “I like the Paris cab drivers more. I have never had a sexier cab driver in my entire life.” He put on the radio and Imagine by John Lennon played. I smiled and looked at him in the rear view mirror. He smiled too. How do you ask a cab driver out on a date in French?! It was a beautiful moment.


We were at the Arc du Triomphe in a flash. He stopped on a side street on the outside of the roundabout. He told me that nobody is allowed to stop in the middle. Fair enough, this roundabout is like an extreme game of Frogger. One in which nobody wins. I paid him and thanked him profusely. I walked towards the steps he told me were the entrance to the tunnel, but they turned out to only go down to the metro. I looked over at my cab driver and he motioned for me to get back into the car. I told him those steps didn’t lead to the entrance, and asked how I get there?! I hopped in the cab and he cut across traffic. He pulled to the side of the Arc du Triomphe and rushed me out. I really felt like I was in a movie. If only there was a beautiful man who gave me some sort of romantic ultimatum to meet him at the top of the Arc du Triomphe at sunset, or he will never love me again.


I paid my entry and began my trek up the 284 stairs. The slow, unfit, sober tourists in my way, were pushed aside as I bounded past. I think the adrenaline took over because I somehow made it to the top and onto the terrace in 7 minutes. After a carafe of wine to myself, I pretty much become an olympic athlete. I caught the end of the sunset as it made its way past the tall buildings of the city centre and disappeared behind the horizon. The view was breathtaking. It brought me close to tears. The Eiffel tower began twinkling as the clock struck 10, and I stood and watched with all the wonder of a child. I walked around the entire top, and took about 100 couples’ photos for them. I walked down the steps as the terrace closed and head to the nearest metro station. What a perfectly magical way to say goodbye to Paris. I fell in love here, not with a boy, but with a city.