Postcard from 36 hours in Paris

I’m back from a flying visit to Paris, a city I really should visit more often. I found a great deal on a delightful hotel in the 6th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from Notre Dame and Quai d’Orsay, one of my husband’s favourite museums in Paris. We arrived in time for lunch at a neighbourhood restaurant, part of Guy Savoy’s stable. My beloved had the set lunch menu while I went a la carte with carpaccio of octopus followed by salmon. It was delicious and we walked off the calories walking briskly along the Seine.
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My beloved was taking a few precious hours away from work to do a spot of sightseeing. While I’ve visited all Paris’s major attractions at least once, my beloved has not. He wanted to see inside Notre Dame but swiftly changed his mind when he saw the 300 metre long queue – maybe next time. Instead we admired its intricate exterior Gothic carvings before continuing our walk.
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Instead, we visited his favourite museum and enjoyed a fabulous exhibit of treasures from the Second French Empire, a time of tremendous wealth in France where it was de rigeur to flaunt said riches. The other was of the works of Frederic Bazille, an impressionist who hob nobbed with the likes of Monet, Renoir and Sisley but tragically died too young, leaving a small but beautiful body of work.
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After our dose of culture we strolled back to the hotel to enjoy a reviving cuppa. The hotel had already endeared itself to me by giving us a room upgrade. It then exceeded my expectations with a complimentary bottle of my favourite beverage. It will be deservedly receiving a glowing report. We spent the evening in the hotel bar enjoying a jazz concert before retiring for a great night’s sleep.
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The following morning my beloved had a packed itinerary starting with an early business meeting over breakfast leaving me to enjoy a lie in followed by a busy day pounding the Parisian pavements. I started by walking around the St Germain area which is full of interesting shops and galleries before straying across the river into an old favourite, the Marais.
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I walked the streets of Paris for over six hours before meeting my beloved back at the hotel for an early dinner in a typical French brasserie where we both tucked enthusiastically into a plate of oysters before heading home. Next stop New York!

The Musette: Breakfast muffins

I’ve always enjoyed porridge (made with water) for breakfast. I find it great fuel before a long week-end ride.

Cinnamon porridge with bananas, walnuts and a dash of maple syrup
Cinnamon millet porridge with bananas, walnuts and a dash of maple syrup

However, mid-week I often ride without eating any breakfast – allegedly it encourages fat-burning – and need a portable snack in my back pocket for when I run out of energy. I find I can easily ride for 90 minutes on an empty stomach, thereafter I really need something to eat.  Sadly, under my new regime I’m unlikely to find anything en route which meets the strictures of my dietary requirements, and the old days of treating myself to a coffee eclair and coke are long gone. Instead, I take a couple of readily portable porridge muffins which easily fit in my back pocket.

Ingredients (makes 6 muffins)

    • 2 ripe organic bananas approx. 250g (3/4 cup), without skins, mashed
    • 30g (1/4 cup) flaked millet
    • 90g (3/4 cup) gluten-free oats
    • 1 tbsp chia seeds
    • 3 tbsp water
    • 4 tbsp 100%  grade A maple syrup
    • heaped tsp mixed spices
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
    • 1 tsp organic apple cider vinegar

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan) and line a muffin tin with six small muffin cases. You need to use cases otherwise the muffins will stick to the tin.

2. In a large glass bowl, stir the water and chia seeds together. Allow them to rest for 5-10  minutes until they become gloopy.

The bananas must be ripe and mashed
The bananas must be ripe and mashed

3. Measure and add all the remaining ingredients, stir lightly to combine.

Ready for the muffin cases
Ready for the muffin cases

4. Divide the mixture between the six cases – I use an ice-cream scoop. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the centres are firm to the touch.

Fill cases to brim as these are not going to rise much
Fill cases to brim as these are not going to rise much

5. Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes and then enjoy!

Ready for breakfast at home or on the go
Ready for breakfast at home or on the go

6. The muffins will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3-4 days – if they last that long! No need to re-heat, they taste great cold.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the muffins in the oven, put the timer on for five minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. You can slightly under-bake small cakes as they’ll continue cooking for a few minutes after they come out of the oven.

4. Variations: substitute pumpkin, sweet potato or apple puree for the bananas. Feel free to add a few toasted chopped nuts such as almonds, pecans or walnuts for more crunch or raisins. Substitute flaked rice or ground almonds for the flaked millet or use 100% oats. Let your imagination run riot! Combine tastes and textures which you know go well together and, if necessary, add extra liquid in the form of non-diary milk, fruit juice or maple syrup to maintain a very soft pouring consistency.

Wintery blues

This week daytime temperatures have slipped below 20C, our Indian Summer has gone. There’s a dusting of snow on the hills behind Nice, largely from that cold snap in mid-October, and the leaves are starting to turn. With the clocks having gone back, it’s getting dark earlier. The days are drawing in. Towns are busy putting up their Xmas lights and shops are busying themselves with Festive window displays. Yes, winter is on its way.

It rained all day Saturday so I spent the time wisely by continuing the “Big Tidy Up”, an event long overdue but slowly progressing. Sometimes it feels as if I’m not making enough headway but I’ve only to open the cupboards and drawers, which are neat, tidy and organised beyond belief, to be reassured. Marie Kondo (of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) would be proud of me. I’ve even managed to get my beloved to clear out his dressing room and anything which no longer gives him joy has gone to the charity shop or skip.

After a dull start, the sun and I duly emerged on Sunday. I opted for a leisurely ride around Cap d’Antibes, one of my regular winter circuits. The market in Antibes was in full swing and crowds thronged the beach and pavements, the former for possibly the last time this year.

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There’s nothing better than a ride to clear one’s head and I finally feel I’m making some progress though I’m still a long way off my best. The helmet and glasses thankfully hid my latest eczema attack which is proving to be the worst to date, though I’ve no idea why.

It flared up after my last trip to London, kinda subsided while we were in Como and then came back with a vengeance after my return from Hamburg. The sunshine has allowed me to shelter behind my sunglasses. It’s so unsightly, frankly had I ventured out I wouldn’t have needed a costume to frighten folks at Halloween.

There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason for the attacks, since it first appeared on my hands back in January 2015. Of course, on my more recent trips to the doctor, it’s obligingly disappeared days before my appointment. I may have to take a selfie and send it to her for a few words of wisdom.

Interestingly, after rummaging around on the internet, I’ve discovered that corticosteroids are one of the drugs used to contain it. Now I’m not keen on taking anything but, as an alternative to becoming a recluse, it’s become more appealing. Whether it will allow me to shed unwanted fat, improve my ascending and win the Tour de France are debatable but more and more I’m thinking it might be worth a go!