Duck and Waffle Brunching

After finishing university last summer, my best friend Emilie packed up and flew the nest to live in one of my favorite cities in the world- Paris. I love everything about it. Beautiful, romantic, charming, and most importantly, it's only a 2 hour Eurostar ride away from London!

Last week another of our best buds Jen turned another year older and wiser so Em jumped at the excuse to zip through the tunnel to see us for a weekend.

Saturday night was filled with giggles, margaritas and a solid helping of questionable dance moves. When Sunday arrived we were all in need of a little pick me up, and there was only one thing that was going to cut it. A good old brunching at the Duck and Waffle.

The duck and waffle is one of my favorite places in London, with Amazing food, spectacular views and a buzzing atmosphere. Taking my little visitor was a no brainer

It's no secret that I love to share. A taste of everything is always better and your at no risk at all of getting food envy! Ems the same, so we decided to just get a good old spread and share the lot.

We may have gotten a little carried away with the ordering...but that didn't stop us devouring all 4 courses! 

We started off with a selection of freshly baked pastries with coffee and blood orange juice. We needed a good carb fix and these definitely did the job. 

You know what they say. You can take the girl out of Paris.... but she still can't start her day without a croissant and a coffee.

The PB and J Fat boy was up next. 

Trust me, this little guy didnt get his 'fat boy' name tag for no reason. A hearty piece of Brioche lathered in peanut butter and jam topped with banana, poached egg, bacon and finished with a soaking of maple syrup. A bit of a heart attack on a plate. This dish is utterly delicious, however it's most definately a good one to share! Chomping your way through one of these bad boys alone would be sickening to say the least. It is sweet sweet sweet!!

The Chorizo, avocado and scrambled eggs on toast were whisked in next. 

Avocado is defintly near the top of my all time favourite foods list with eggs trotting along not far behind, so this kinda dish is right up my street!The tomatoes and spring onion scrambled through the eggs add a good kick and you can't go wrong with a good old bit of spicy chorizo! 

Finally, we finished off with a good old classic fruit salad. As long as you've got your fruit and veggies it makes a meal healthy right...? If only!

Tossed in a mint dressing, this was just what we needed as a wee dessert. Fresh, juicy and utterly refreshing! What's not to love! 

We all left feeling a lot more human and back to our normal selves. We dashed across town to the National Portrait gallery and spent the afternoon wandering around the David Bailey Stardust exhibition at the National portrait gallery. Definitely worth a visit if you haven't already been! 

You'll find the Duck and Waffle in The Heron Tower just a stones throw away from Liverpool Street station.  It can get a bit busy so it's best to get your booking in early! I promise it's worth it.

The last supper

My time in France seemed to be over in a flash. Blink, and you might of missed it. I was so sad to be leaving, but I always think that the best way to leave a holiday is with desire to stay, not the feeling of being ready to go home. We spent the last day soaking up the sun on the beach before heading back to the house for my last French feast. Every meal I ate while I was away was delicious, and this night was certainly no different. Em's cousin Maylis and her parents arrived, and with them they brought extremely good dinner at that!
 A family reunited
A hearty spread was laid out, and it didn't take long before it had completely dissapeared! We started off with Pate and Cornichons, something I ate plenty of last week!
Then it was time to get fired up and stick some meat on the barby. After all what's more French than a juicy, pink steak!?
Its no secret that the French like their steak blue, and although I wouldn't say it was quite like that, it was super pink, packed with flavour and absolutely delicious!
There was plenty to munch on alongside this.
Grilled Aubergines
Roasted bell peppers
Tomato salad
Ofcourse in classic French style, the meal was followed by cheese. It was so moreish! Perfectly ripe, gooey and strong in flavour; exactly how I like it.
All of Ems friends then arrived for 'un soiree mojito', a mojito party in other words. Ems brother makes the most amazing mojitos so he got behind the bar and worked his magic.
It was the perfect ending to the most fantastic holiday. I couldnt have had a better time and I can't believe I've been missing out all this years! I cant wait to go back to Vendee, but in the meantime Em is off to Paris in September to do a masters so I know there will be plenty of new French adventures to come first...Just Watch this space.

A sunset picnic on the beach

Its tradition in Vendee that one night in the summer everybody gets together and has a picnic on the beach to watch the sunset. I was lucky enough to be around for this, and it really was a truly magical experience. You couldn't get much closer to nature than this if you tried, and it was so nice to be able to just sit back and take it all in.

I was actually surprised by how many people there were. They just kept coming and coming, not to mention the fact that all of these people knew each other! Everybody was so friendly, and the greetings (the classic French kiss on each cheek) never seemed to end!
We were pretty pushed for time beforehand so we just made up sandwiches(Pate and Cornichons was the obvious choice, grabbed a few bags of crisps and a bottle of red wine and headed for the beach.

Two little sandwich lovers.
Vin Rouge...
...which required serious concentration.
After eating all of the boys headed off to play rugby. There was a good mix of English and French, many of which couldn't even utter a word of the others language. I have always found it so touching how sport connects people. It just shows how language is really only a barrier if you let it become one. 

This left me and Em to have a good old gossip whilst enjoying the last of the evenings sun.

We took a look around and realised that there were four generations all mingling, chattering and laughing away together, right from elderly grandparents down to teenie tiny tots. Family is so important in France, and I think that everybody could do with taking a leaf out of their book. 
 Em and her mama

As the sun continued to set it started to get a little chilly so we packed up and decided to head home. I couldn't have picked a more picturesque dinner spot, and its certainly something I'll remember for years to come. My time in France went ridiculously fast, and after this I only had one day left... but theres more on that to come...

Vive La France

My best friend Emilie is French, and every summer for as long as I have known her she has disappeared off to France for the entire summer. For the past few summers ideas have been hatched and plans have been made for me to visit, but for one reason or another they have never taken off. This summer I was determined to finally see this other half of Emilie's life for myself, so last week I packed up my things, jumped on the eurostar and trained it down to Vendee on the west coast of France.
Em's Mum is the French one in the family, and Vendee is where she used to spend her summer holidays as well when she was growing up. Everybody that she was friendly with when she was young now holidays here with there children too, and as a result there is this huge group of people spanning generations that are like one big family.
The lifestyle is so relaxed and easygoing that it would make a spa day look stressful. People pop in unannounced at midnight just to say hello, its the norm not to have internet access and you forgot what its like to wear make up.  
A few years ago Em's family decided to buy a run down old farmhouse and renovate it to save themselves from spending the summer cooped up in the Grandparents house. The finished product is absolutely beautiful. Its rustic, but has this great typically French, beachy feel.
I arrived pretty late so the next morning Emilie and I decided to take a little bike ride, giving Em the chance to play tour guide and show me around.

What I loved about Vendee was that it is complete rural French countryside, yet it is right on the coast. You go from cycling between fields and farms to landing slap bang on the beach.
The beaches are breathtaking and just seem to stretch on forever. The West coast of France is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean so it can be a bit on the chilly side, but after 5 minutes of lying in the Vendee sun that icy chill is a very welcome cool down.

After tiring our little legs out it was time to take a quick pit stop for a coffee and a crepe. We went for the healthiest option on the menu...(cough cough) A chocolate smothered beast piled high with whipped cream. Not so great for our waistlines, but a great little piece of food porn!
Twice a week there is the most typically French market that takes place in a nearby village. People pile into the streets with their stalls and by midday they have all completely dissapeared without a trace. 
All of the stalls were selling different things: clothes, jewellery, ornaments, handcrafted crockery, the list goes on. The food stalls were my favourite, and with free samples flying from every angle, we hardly needed those crepes. (almost)
Plenty of smelly French cheese! Yum, yum, yum!

French sausage.
Every type of olive, sun dried tomato and Tapenade (a classic french dish of pureed capers, olives, anchovies and olive oil) you could ever ask for.
All tired out from our mornings workout and full of free testes and crepe, it was time to head home...for lunch. The vast majority of my trip to Vendee was spent eating, but the food in France is so delicious that I was hardly complaining... More on that another day. 
As for now, I'll leave you sunbathing in the garden where we snoozed all afternoon... The Vendee lifestyle is definitely something I could get used too, and theres plenty more to come.