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Out in South Africa

Last month I was in South Africa to attend my friends’ wedding by the ocean. It was my second trip to RSA, so I decided to go back to some of my favourite places too. In only one week I enjoyed both the beautiful coast of Wilderness and the vineyards of Stellenbosch. Time slowed down and one week felt like one month. I love South Africa and if you’re contemplating going for a short trip, maybe you’d enjoy some of my favourite spots too!

 

moas wedding

Photo Credit: Kayla Upshaw

The wedding took place between the ocean and lush forest in the small town of Wilderness. What a stunning place to celebrate love! The reception was intimate, relaxed, authentic and simple in a beautiful way. They were married in the same place they met. It’s the kind of story that never gets old! Wilderness is about five hours drive East from Cape Town (road work dependent, where seemingly, no roadwork is actually occurring… welcome to RSA btw). We took the fastest road to get there in time, but it is definitely worth taking the ocean road and making a stop by Hermanus if you can.

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The next day I headed to the beach, with a surprisingly light hangover (A wedding with a South African Groom and Swedish Bride means the guests are provided a vast array of delicious alcoholic options) The skies were cloudy but it was warm. I did some yoga on the beach, which seemed a great idea however afterward I was covered in sticky sand. The South Atlantic Ocean was a chilly 16°C. Too cold for a rinse! South Africa is going through a severe water drought, so water usage is limited at the moment. I was determined to keep my consumption under 50L per day so I skipped the fresh water beach shower. Embracing nature was the order of the day!

Covered in sand, I took my fabulous +1 for a walk along the old train tracks. If you happen to visit Wilderness I recommend taking the time to pay a visit to the homeless community that is nestled on the cliff side after a little tunnel along the old train tracks. The people building this place have found their own way to express their artistic creativity and have transformed a natural cave into a museum of hand made art. You can visit, leaving a donation of 20 Rand (equivalent to $2 USD). The view overlooking the bay is beautiful too.

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After a few days by the quiet and charming coast of the Western Cape, we drove the long road to wine valley of Stellenbosch. I love spending time in Stellenbosch, immersed in the old colonial buildings, trendy bars, hippy markets and cute restaurants. Add to this the lively atmosphere brought by the 30 000 students in town and you have a recipe for a good time.

 

Among the good restaurants on the popular Church Street, we enjoyed a fresh meal at Man’oush, and had some local Bobotie at Java. Unfortunately, we missed the market days, but we enjoyed some oysters and wine at De Warenmarkt. On our last night out, we went to the Trumpet Tree, a popular student bar with fun ambiance and good beers.

No one comes to Stellenbosch to drink only beers! With more than 150 wine estates, you cannot miss the fantastic wine tasting tours. Because it is not easy to make a choice among them all, you can book a tour by bike, tuk-tuk or even train. It wasn’t my first time so I just picked estates I never went to before and some I really loved from my first visit, five years ago, knowing that it is hard to have a bad experience there!

Tokara hills

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the first day we went to Waterford for an interesting wine and chocolate tasting, then we had lunch booked with friends at Garden Peak. What a fantastic meal! I tried the ostrich steak for the first time and loved it (apologies to my vegan friends).

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The second day, we chose Villiera as they also offer a game drive. We enjoyed the tour through the immense estate and the company of our passionate and knowledgeable guide, who, as it happens, was the third generation farm owner! He occasionally does a tour as a way of checking on his huge estate, and keeping in touch with his guests. We felt very fortunate that our tour guide was someone who couldn’t have been more involved with the park. During the three hour ride (An hour over the advertised time, not that we minded), we saw many species of Antelope including Springbok, Oryx, Giant Eland, Wildebeest and Kudu but also Giraffe and Zebra. Our guide took his time so we could get closer to the animals without being intrusive. We were lucky to witness a Springbok buck fight and a day old Eland calf drinking his mother’s milk. Simply amazing!

On our last day, we went to Tokara, one of my favourite wine farms. They display grand pieces of art and offer a magnificent view over the vineyards and the valley. Unfortunately, their restaurant was fully booked but we walked to their gourmet delicatessen where we had one of the best lunches of the week! 

I would go back to South Africa anytime for a holiday. Next time I will probably aim to go to Aldo Elephant park. My friends are managing a charming guesthouse called Camp FigTree, that I cannot wait to check out!

 

Learning to Breathe

 

Breathing happens naturally, just as our heart beats, we inhale and exhale without conscious thought. But unlike the beating of our heart, we have the ability to control our breath. Through our breath, we can express emotions (a deep positive sigh of satisfaction or a frustrated one of exasperation for example), we feel the intensity of a work out, we can calm ourselves… we can find control and focus. The power of breathing is immense and yet often underestimated. We spend most of our lives breathing automatically, but what if we worked on our breath as much as we work on our abs? Here is my personal story on breathing and how I am currently exploring my own capacities.

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When I was fourteen, I took theatre classes. I loved the atmosphere, the costumes, being behind the scenes. I loved the smell. I loved the feeling of belonging to a world outside of my reality. My teacher was in her 30’s, and she introduced me to relaxation and breathing. Each class we were laying in Shavasana (although we had no idea it was Shavasana) and she would ask us to be aware of the feeling of our bodies against the floor. I also learnt my first breathing technique.

Shavasana

I didn’t even think of it as a technique. I just thought she was making us relax. And it worked so well! I even started using the breathing technique at home. Every time I  felt restless and anxious (which used to be often), I would lay down and inhale fully, with my stomach first, then all my lungs. Then I would exhale slowly and fully as well. And repeat until I started relaxing. This technique helped me sleep many times.

Although I had little idea what I was really doing, it was my first approach to mindful breathing.

Today, I use breathing techniques, called Pranayama in yoga, for so many situations. I have learnt proper ways to relax, to feel energised, to help me sleep… Simply, I have learnt to breathe.

I’ve spent most of my life using the minimum capacity of my lungs. Many women also tend to breathe into their upper chest. This possibly comes from a maternal instinct, as pregnant women can experience more difficulty filling up their belly and lungs. That way of breathing sometimes brings a feeling of comfort to me, but definitely not enough oxygen!

breathe is the trick

Indeed, I feel like I’m holding my breath 60% of the time. I often feel stress at work, there’s always a lot to do and so much more to think of. I love my job and I love the adrenaline I feel when we go into service. Time flies, and it’s like we are back in the theatre, playing a scene, with its own choreography and words. It’s both thrilling and exhausting. So before going to bed I check myself, I remember to breathe deeply and mindfully. I thank my body for carrying me through the long days at work. And I pass out in my bunk bed (yep, we only have bunk beds on a boat).

If you’re interested in breathing techniques to help you find balance, energy or fight insomnia, check out the Yoga Journal website, there are so many great videos. One of my favourite Pranayama is called the Nadi Shodhana. It’s an anxiety-relieving, balancing technique, where you breathe through your nostrils alternatively:

http://content.jwplatform.com/players/xnJKubXd-lS2TCn6U.html

Wim Hof Iceman

If you feel like you want to become a super-human, I invite you to also check out the Wim Hof technique. I was introduced to it during my last Yoga training. It’s the strangest feeling I ever experienced. It’s empowering and challenging. I don’t know where I’ll go with that technique… for now I keep a curious mind, and will try to be more consistent when work chills a bit. Have a look at what this man achieved through breathing:

Fast and Curious in Havana

I wasn’t planning to post anything about Cuba, I only got to see Havana for a short time. But I keep hearing that song on the radio (“half of my heart is in Havana…”) so I figured it was a sign…right?

I quickly stopped by Havana last year, while on a work trip on my last boat. I could only visit for a couple days, so I did all the touristic stuff I guess… even so I did feel I caught a good glimpse of the culture and life there. I loved the music, it was beautiful and seems to be everywhere you go. I loved the mix of old cars, historical buildings and the old town. Cubans are very friendly, and made the trip so much more interesting.

I went on a cigar tour, although I don’t smoke I really enjoyed learning about cigars. I also went to the Rum distillery of Havana Club…and although I do love rum, the tour was quite short and we were too many tourists together at the same time to really enjoy it.

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IMG_4736Of course I did the ultimate Havana tour: the Cadillac tour! With all the girls (and a few margaritas) we got the best tour of the city. Our drivers pumped the music and took us for a couple of hours around the city and to the sea side (..and places I actually have a hard time remembering due to the margaritas…oops). What I remember is the laughs and the fun we all had. Especially when the drivers ended the trip by taking us to a restaurant where we got to learn a few salsa moves (that’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me by the way, salsa lessons are definitely on the list for 2018).

A few “must-see” in Havana are the bars where some of the most famous cocktails where created: A Mojito at La Bodegita Del Medio, a Daiquiri at La Floridita, and La Fabrica de Arte “FAC” for the culture and salsa.

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On the last day, we walked through the streets, trying to understand how people lived, away from the touristy centre. It’s not so easy to get an accurate picture of what reality is like these days in Cuba, what is presented to the western tourist and what is daily reality for the everyday Cuban is quite different. I saw places where people still trade tickets for groceries, with very little on the shelves… It came as a shock when you come from a world of easy consumerism.

Everybody says that Cuba is going to change rapidly now that they’ve opened their country to mass tourism. I’m curious to see how the culture will evolve, how the food (that was very basic in most places) and in general the quality of life will change for Cubans.

Coming out with Yoga

When I was a teenager, I went to my first yoga class. I already had back issues due to scoliosis and my mum thought it would be a great idea to give it a try. I hated it.

I was used to doing movements that my physiotherapist had taught me, so I carried on with that form of fitness therapy. Let me tell you now that I have never been great at sports. I have a long thin body and my clumsiness couldn’t have helped less (especially at games involving a ball!). My back was causing me a lot of pain each time I was skipping my physio exercises but I found them boring. I was looking for new entertaining ways to get stronger. This is when I discovered Pilates. Pilates seemed to be a great way to strengthen my back and have fun. I was watching videos online and going to a few classes here and there.

backpacking styleAt 27, I quit my job in Paris and went backpacking solo through South-East Asia. I was going through a lot emotionally and I was ready to try new things. In the middle of the exploring and partying, I found Yoga again. During my 4 months of travels I went to as many classes that were on my road as I could. I tried different styles with very different teachers coming from diverse countries and cultures. Most of the time, I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I was having a lot of fun but also felt a sort of embarrassment. I found myself to be quite clumsy and most of all my flexibility was close to zero. I couldn’t touch my ankles bending forward while most other yogis were folding into two or at least touching their feet. I also had in my head memories of all the names I used to be called when I was younger (stick, giraffe etc) . I didn’t care much, after all I was far away, and didn’t take yoga very seriously, but, I kinda felt like it would never really be for me.

 

I found a lot of comfort in YogaAfter traveling through Asia, I decided to try settle in Australia. I didn’t have many friends at first so going to Yoga seemed like a good activity for me. I found a lot of comfort in Yoga then. I felt very lonely and I was struggling with my visa situation. Yoga brought me positive energy and my body was starting to move with more ease. I was finally enjoying a good stretch and seeing some progress. I was getting more and more into it, but always without taking it very seriously (not that it should).

better care of myself
One day, while washing my hair, I collapsed in the shower. My back was completely seized. I couldn’t breath without pain. I struggled to get out of the bathroom and crawled to my bed. I was crying with pain, completely panicked with what was happening. I had never experienced that kind of pain and immobility. A friend came to help, I took painkillers and the next day went to the closest physiotherapist. I was reassured that nothing was serious at all. Just my old scoliosis reminding me that I am not Wonder Woman. At the time, I was juggling two, sometimes three jobs. A few weeks of skipping my back exercises and here I was, feeling a hundred years old… That’s when I decided to take better care of myself.

When I left Australia (my work Visa not leading anywhere) and started a career in yachting, I went on doing my own Yoga-Pilates practice by myself. Being on the water I had very few opportunities of joining classes. It was good enough to maintain a healthy back and became the best way for me to find some peace.

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Feeling free and happy in Nicaragua

Three years ago, I went to Nicaragua, again by myself. The little hotel where I chose to stay by Playa Maderas, offered Yoga classes in the morning. There, by the ocean, I needed to recharge my batteries and find balance. I guess that’s why I enjoyed the Yoga so much! I looked up at the teacher. She was about my age and was on a solo-journey. I felt some kind of a revelation. I wanted to feel as free and happy as all those yoga teachers I met on my travels. I wanted to feel as happy on holidays as in everyday life.

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One the most amazing morning views doing some yoga before work. Yoga brought me to appreciate the smallest things, find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Going back to work, I decided to make Yoga part of my life for good. I started feeling pride and respect for a practice often perceived as an activity for hippies. Some of my colleagues started to be interested in what I was doing on the deck of the boat. They all had tense bodies and were suffering from stress (yachting is not a walk in the park as you may imagine). I had no idea how to explain Yoga to others but I enjoyed sharing my practice.

Three months ago, I made the decision to go on a Yoga Teacher Training course. I was terrified. I really wanted to understand Yoga better, practice correct sequences and learn the poses right. But I didn’t feel legitimate being called a Yoga Teacher yet. Reality was that I was already being asked by friends and family members to do Yoga with them. So in a way I was already teaching, and I was very scared of harming anyone with an incorrect move. I owed it to others as much as to myself to practice Yoga correctly. So it was with a lot of doubts and fear (will I be able to, will I look stupid, will others be way better and so on) that I signed for the retreat. I have learnt so much more than I thought I would. The fear transformed into fire, that I used to overcome the boundaries I had set for myself.

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It’s been one month since I received my certification. Filled with motivation and fresh knowledge I am ready to share my practice with more confidence. I know that through teaching I will learn a lot more.

I am proud to say that I am a Yogi

Is one week in Costa Rica enough?

 

IMG_0308I had been wanting to go to Costa Rica for the last two years. Last December, I finally found the courage to book my Yoga Teacher Training and it happened to be located in Costa Rica!

How amazing it was to do two of my favourite things together: explore a new country and learn more yoga! Even more extraordinary, I convinced my friend Maxine to join me for one week before the training. I remember making beds on the boat we used to work on together, thinking about the day we would go travel, and how much we talked about going to Costa Rica… it seemed so far and so impossible to make it… but we talked about it so much!

Because we were short on time, we decided to focus on only two destinations: Tamarindo Beach and the Arenal Volcano. To travel around Costa Rica, we rented a 4×4 car. The roads were actually mostly in good conditions, but having a 4×4 seemed like the safest option.  We got the car delivered to us at our hotel near San Jose (so easy, right?), the first morning, and headed straight to the beach.
We really enjoyed our time in Tamarindo. We liked the long beaches, friendly atmosphere and nice coffee shops. Although we had a nice time in Tamarindo (famous for its surf), we preferred the quiet and wilder Playa Langosta. We were also happy to find a market on the Thursday night, with music and fire show.

After sunbathing for a few days, we went to The Arenal Volcano national park, which offers a beautiful ride all along the lake. We absolutely loved the lush landscapes, the beauty of the volcano, the wild fauna, and the activities around.

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We stayed for 4 nights at an eco-friendly lodge, nested in the middle of the rain forest, the Finca Luna Nueva. I definitely recommend this place, for its organic food, kind staff and bio-dynamic farm with a free-tour that taught us a lot!

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We did a horse riding tour that we enjoyed very much. Our horses were very brave to go through deep mud and steep slopes. Our guides were so kind and really tried hard to find more and more cool things to show us (birds, monkeys, even a tarantula!). The view of the volcano from the hill were the horses took us was breathtaking!

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On our last day, we went to thermal pools of “Eco Termales“. What a stunning place! I let you see for yourself… we almost had the whole place for ourselves (better go on a week day).

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Is one week in Costa Rica enough? Of course not! But it’s better than nothing, and we actually felt like we did a lot and really got to relax. So if you don’t have much time and are looking for an easy, safe, lush holiday, Costa Rica is the right place.

 

 

 

 

 

4 weeks in Mexico : Tulum, Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido and Merida

I just spent one month in Mexico, the first week by myself and the following 3 weeks with friends. Was I scared to go there by myself ? Yes! Would I do it again? Absolutely! From Tulum to Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido, we stuck to main tourist paths, and still got to experience a lot of the mexican culture while enjoying a beautiful holiday destination. I fell in love with Mexico. Here are my best (and worst) experience in Mexico. Read More

Food Typography : Danielle Evans

Ooooh I love Arts, Ooooh I love Food….and OMG I love calligraphy. So here is my “coup de coeur” or “heart strike”, yes, a very dramatic French idiom for saying that I love what artist Danielle Evans creates with simple ingredients and a lot of imagination. Her story is even more touching.

Ooooh comme j’aime l’art, aaaah comme j’aime manger… et oh oui aussi j’adore la calligraphie. C’est donc sans surprise que j’ai eu un coup de coeur pour le travail de Danielle Evans. En utilisant des ingrédients simples et beaucoup d’imagination, elle crée de magnifiques créations typographiques. Son histoire est tout aussi touchante. 

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Chef Up : le Rêve Australien de Trois Français à Sydney / Three Frenchmen living the Australian Dream in Sydney

Is Australia the new American dream ? For French people, it feels like it! I have met many travelers who visited Australia with a Working Holiday Visa and then decided to stay a bit longer, found a job or started their own business. Among those who dream of a better land, three French men from Lyon, Thibault, Xavier and Mathieu have launched their Event/Cooking Class/Team Building company: Chef Up. Will a bit of ambition, a lot of work and a passion for sharing their French cuisine be their recipe for success ?

L’Australie serait-elle devenue le nouveau rêve Américain des français ? Tout au long de mon année en Working Holiday en Australie, j’ai rencontré beaucoup de français qui se sont lancés le défis de s’installer ici, en se faisant “visa-sponsoriser” via un travail ou bien en créant leur propre entreprise. Parmi ceux qui rêvent d’une vie meilleure au pays des koalas, j’ai rencontré trois lyonnais, Thibault, Xavier et Mathieu, qui viennent de créer leur entreprise Chef Up. Des cours de cuisine ludiques à l’événementiel en passant par la formation en entreprise, c’est avec un peu d’ambition et beaucoup de travail qu’ils cherchent la bonne formule pour transformer leur aventure en succès!

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All crazy about Kale ? Tous accros au Kale ?

Before moving to Australia, I had barely heard of kale. I remember siting at my desk in Paris, chatting about its benefits with a young and skinny intern, and being scared that it would be another trendy way of avoiding real food (I mean the full fat, traditional French food, with bread of course!)… Now that I have lived in Sydney, I’ve had many occasion to try that supa-powa veggie, in raw salads, soups, and even smoothies! So, why is everybody talking about kale?

Avant de venir vivre en Australie, je n’avais pas vraiment entendu parler du kale (on prononce “kayle”). Je me rappelais juste de cette discussion au bureau à Paris, avec une jeune et très mince stagiaire qui me comptait les bénéfices de ce légume vert. Un peu sceptique et surtout peu encline à laisser tomber mes bons plats en sauce tradi, j’avoue que je ne m’y étais pas beaucoup intéressée. Mais à Sydney, on en voit partout ! En salade, en soupe, en chips et surtout en SMOOTHIE!!! Quoi des légumes dans mon jus de fruits ?! Et bien oui, et même que ce n’était pas mauvais du tout! Alors, le Kale, légume de l’année 2015 ?

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My Australian Life

I have been procrastinating for too long. I wish I could just say that I was too busy to write, but let’s face it : I’ve been just too busy making the most of my time in Australia (and… ok, also, I’ve been working a lot!). So, what has happened since last time I posted something on the blog? Let’s take the time to talk about living in Australia, discovering it’s culinary culture and what has happened meanwhile back home (in France).

Cela fait un moment que je n’ai rien écris sur le blog, et même si j’aimerais me trouver des excuses, j’avoue que je n’ai pas pris le temps d’écrire, puisque j’étais bien trop occupée à profiter de la vie Australienne (et ok, j’ai aussi beaucoup bossé ces derniers mois). Il est donc grand temps de me rattraper et de faire un point sur mes découvertes culinaires à Sydney et puis aussi de revenir sur les derniers événements qui ont touché la France.

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Salon Saveurs à Paris & Entrées Gratuites à la Clé! / Get your Free Entry to the Salon Saveurs Paris!

Chaque année, le Salon Saveurs des Plaisirs Gourmands réunit à Paris le meilleur de la gastronomie française, des tendances food aux bons produits du terroir. Super contente d’apprendre que FoodnTrends.com a été sélectionné parmi les coups de coeur du Salon dans la catégorie des blogs tendances, je suis doublement heureuse de pouvoir vous faire profiter d’entrées gratuites pour découvrir ce qui est “In” dans l’univers culinaire français d’aujourd’hui!

Every year, the Salon Saveurs in Paris presents the best of the food trends mixed with the traditional “terroir” delicacies from all over France. I was really happy to learn that FoodnTrends.com was chosen by the Salon as one of the best blogs in its category, and I am even happier to be able to give away some invitations… so don’t hesitate to get your free pass now and taste the best of French food today !

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