TRAVEL: Top Things To Do in ARCACHON and La TESTE-de-BUCH


Located some 55kms from Bordeaux is another arrondissement called Arcachon which sits on the banks of the Atlantic coast. Compared with most towns in France, our friends at Wikipedia say Arcachon is fairly young at around 150 years old. Prior to it being officially acknowledged by Emperor Napoleon III as a town, Arcachon is said to be just a sprawling forest of pine, oaks, and strawberry trees with almost zero road links. Today, however, Arcachon is fast becoming famous for its fine beaches, the remarkable Arcachon houses so unique in architecture, great seafood, while neighbouring La Teste-de-Buch is home to the famous Grande Dune du Pilat. After spending the previous day gallivanting around Sauternes, my In-Laws took us on a road trip to these two arrondissements and what we have seen there certainly confirmed raves by tourists.

1. Arcachon Beaches. In Arcachon, you will find a long stretch of fine sandy beaches that has become so popular with beachcombers and surfers, too, especially during summer. As it was winter when we came here, we saw only a handful of people braving the icy cold temperature. There are restaurants and bars along Boulevard de l’Ocean, as well as private properties lucky (or wealthy) enough to hog a slice of this natural beauty.

I love the beach, even in winter.

I love the beach, even in winter.

From here, you can also take the boat for a tour around the Birds Island.

Up for some bird watching? You wouldn't want to skip this one!

Up for some bird watching? You wouldn’t want to skip this one!

Or simply roam around the city centre and take photos.

Fresh fruits at the local marché

Fresh fruits at the local marché

Picturesque Arcachon.

Picturesque Arcachon.

Walk the world one city at a time.

Walk the world one city at a time.

2. Grande Dune du Pilat. When my in-laws told us that we will pass by the Grande Dune du Pilat after our trip to Arcachon beach, it didn’t really occur to me that it would be as astonishing as the one that greeted us when we arrived at the site. First of all (and pardon me for my ignorance), I didn’t really think that there could be a sand dune in Europe and one as tall as this one in Pilat. My husband and I have been to the Red Dune in Dubai, and though Le Grande Dune du Pilat is nowhere near it in terms of size and the fine quality of the sand, it more than made up for its lack with the fantastic view of the Atlantic Ocean and Arcachon Bay from the top and the verdant forest in surrounding areas. They say that the dune is about 118m above sea level and stretches up to nearly 3kms, making it the highest sand dune in Europe.

The largest sand dune in Europe.

The largest sand dune in Europe.

Dune du Pilat offers a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean, Arcachon Bay and the surrounding verdant forest.

Dune du Pilat offers a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean, Arcachon Bay and the surrounding verdant forest.

The climb up can be a little challenging but like I said, totally worth the spectacular view from the top. It was very cold the afternoon that we visited with the wind occasionally blowing in freezing gusts, making the climb all the more fun. I can only imagine how even more beautiful it can be up there during summer! There is no fee charged for visitors and there’s one or two snack shops at the base of the dune if you ever feel the need to snack or hydrate before and after the climb. There are toilets and souvenir shops as well. This is definitely a great place to visit when in the region.

The Atlantic Ocean down below.

The Atlantic Ocean below.

3.  (Sea)Food trip. Arcachon takes pride in being recognised as one of the top four places for best oysters in France, alongside Normandy, Brittany and Marennes-Oléron. I must confess that we didn’t exactly have our seafood trip in Arcachon but rather, at this port-side restaurant in La Teste-de-Buch called Restaurant du Port.  Which, if my non-existent geographical knowledge is to be trusted, is really just next to Arcachon. It was still low tide when we got to the restaurant but the water quickly rose to cradle the little colourful sailboats up in its arms, lending the whole scene a slight touch of romance (because we all know France really goes hand-in-hand with romance).

View from Restaurant du Port.

View from Restaurant du Port.

We ordered from the menu escale and got a plate of oysters each for starters and they were truly fresh and delicious! We tried Loubine à la plancha, Pavé de Boeuf and Parillada plus crême brulée and tarte aux noix for desserts – all top-notch in terms of taste and portion.

Les huitres!

Les huitres!

Loubine à la plancha

Loubine à la plancha

Tarte aux Noix

Tarte aux Noix

If I’m not mistaken, the set meal costs around 20 euros, which is quite reasonable given the quality and taste of the food. Overall, this is a great restaurant to visit and you must not leave without sampling their seafood dishes (oysters, especially), which is what they are mainly known for. C’est très delicieux!

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TRAVEL: Packing For A Winter Holiday


I am going on my first-ever ski holiday in February so I have been trawling the internet reading up on winter travel tips. Based on what I have seen so far, packing for a winter holiday is much more complex than packing for a summer holiday – in terms of logistics and pretty much everything else. After all, some bikinis come in a size much smaller than a winter glove. Those who have done a fair amount of skiing (or winter traveling) will have already known this by heart. But for the ski virgins like me, here are some tips I have curated to help us pack efficiently for our trip:

Avoriaz, France. See you in February! (Photo source: http://www.powderbeds.com/blog/france/the-best-family-ski-resorts-in-france)

Avoriaz, France. See you in February! (Photo source: http://www.powderbeds.com/blog/france/the-best-family-ski-resorts-in-france)

  1. Thermal underwear – In order to keep warm and cozy under extremely cold weather conditions, it is advisable to wear thermal underwear, before putting on your normal winter clothes. Unsure which brand to pick? Take your pick from the list of options here.
  2. Boots – When choosing a pair of winter boots, make sure that it’s sturdy enough to hike through snow in, but also, stylish enough to be worn with different types of winter outfit you are planning to take. It’s best to take dark-coloured boots so it’s easy to mix and match with your outfit. For inspiration, check out these winter boots.
  3. Gloves – When it comes to gloves, you only need to make sure that what you have is thin and light enough to stuff in your pockets or bag, breathable,and also waterproof.
  4. Hats – Put simply, your hat should be able to cover your ears and also part of your nape. Hats come in many forms and designs but you should always go with one that will give you the maximum warmth for that specific part of your body.
  5. Polarized sunglasses – Winter sunlight may not be as intense, but when reflected off snow, it can be quite painful on the eyes and very distracting especially when you’re driving. Check out the coolest winter sunglasses in 2015 and pick the one you like best.
  6. Scarf – In most cases, simply covering your ears won’t be enough. You also need to protect your neck from the biting cold and a good quality scarf will take care of that. As scarves are generally small and light, you can have several in different colours and designs to brighten up your dark winter clothing.
  7. Sunscreen, lip balm and your favourite moisturiser – Definitely a MUST! Windburn can be just as painful as the summer sunburn. In fact, it is quite possible to get sunburn from reflection off snow or ice. So keep your skin and lips protected and heavily moisturised especially when going out in the snow.

Fermented Foods For Good Health


If 2014 is the year of gluten-free (some may call it ‘fad’) diet, 2015 will be the year of fermented foods, according to an article by Phil Lempert discussing next year’s food trends. Meaning, most fermented foods that we already know such as yogurt and sauerkraut are about to get more attention and most likely appear on our dining tables more often. Fermented foods contain live or active cultures that are considered effective bacteria-boosting agents.

Not to undermine the health benefits of farm-to-table foods, but these fermented foods with their pungent probiotic ingredients have been proven to boost the good bacteria in our digestive tract, which can help correct and prevent digestive issues, promote weight loss, improve skin conditions, and boost overall immune system.

Here are some traditional fermented foods you should incorporate in your daily meals to give the good bacteria in your digestive system a lovely boost. Keep in mind that as in all things good, you must only enjoy these fermented foods in moderation, with one or two meals a day.

Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)

Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)

Yoghurt. Greek and regular yogurt are the most common fermented yogurt, but you can also make your own. Try this delicious home-made coconut yoghurt and get all the beneficial bacteria your body needs to strengthen your gut health and improve your immunity.

sauerkraut

Sauerkraut. Also known as fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is said to have positive impact on good digestion as well as, brain health. According to Dr. Drew Ramsey, M.D., author of The Happiness Diet and 50 Shades of Kale, there “exists a correlation between gut and brain health”. You can either buy sauerkraut from the supermarket or make your own. Here’s an easy home-made sauerkraut recipe.

Miso Soup goodness

Miso. Here’s something that miso soup lovers probably already know: The paste made from fermented soybeans and grains is packed with essential minerals including potassium and also microorganisms that promote good health and stamina. And it’s also pretty easy to make! Simply add a small portion of miso paste to boiling water together with spring onions and bok choy.

Kimchi

Kimchi. Considered a staple in Korea, kimchi is a spicy dish that is made typically from fermented cabbage and is regarded as a beauty food and an energy-booster. Why? Because as you improve your digestion, you will notice a significant improvement in your skin as well.

Wine and Beer

Wine & Beer. Now this is probably where most of us are getting our fermented food quota. Go ahead, no one’s judging. Just keep in mind that the ideal quantity is just a glass and anything beyond that may bring your body more harm than good.

Vicky’s Guide To Moving On


Nine years, three months and I have finally moved on. And the journey is, surprisingly, not at all painful. It’s as easy and smooth as you would have wished all your breakups in the past had been. But perhaps I should start by explaining what it is, or was, that I have moved on from.

So here it is.

Three weeks ago, I left my job. Or more to the point, (my) life for almost a decade. You know how sometimes you develop an intense affection for something or someone (the latter being more relatable, I guess) that you think the romance is never going to wane, but then you wake up and bam! It’s. just. not. there. anymore. However, in my case, it was more gradual rather than abrupt. No drama, no tears, no gut-wrenching pain or guilt. Except when I finally had that chat with my former Boss, whom I have always respected and I reckon, always will, and not only because of our working relationship but because he’s just a genuinely awesome person, that I got a wee bit emotional. A really good man, that one. And then of course, I have a few (so few) colleagues whom I really liked talking to and collaborating with. Let’s not forget the fun memories of the good old days when people were a lot closer, less calculating, more genuine, more fun. When you’ve had your fair share of breakups, you know that often, even when you know the relationship is heading south, you try to delay the inevitable by allowing yourself to be swayed by memories which are really no more than just dying embers. And these things (do) die, eventually. But I remain loyal to people, good memories and experience spanning nine years and the learnings that came with it. Otherwise, if I forget all of that, those years would have been all for naught. And they weren’t. I just…needed a good change.

Which brings us to here and now. Since I tendered, I found myself planning and doing all sorts of really fun stuff which admittedly made the transition so much easier, like I said. So here it is, Vicky’s guide to moving on:

1. Buy a MacBook Air. I mean, I wish Apple had just given me one for no reason but in my case, Apple came in the form of my doting husband. Merci beaucoup mon mari for my early Christmas gift! With my new job, I intend to pick up blogging again so Macquette and I are certainly going to have a LOT of crazy fun adventures together!

MacBookAir

2. Go to a baking class with newfound friends. Making friends is always encouraged but I prefer my connections to be more than just the perfunctory follows, likes and comments on social media. I want to be in the company of beautiful people (hi Mae!) who are just as passionate about learning new stuff as I am. Plus, baking is totes fun yo! And c’est bon, says Hubby.

BakingClass

3. Indulge your inner fat kid. Met up with a dear friend (hi Madie!) and discovered Market Grill and its famous Mangalica Pork Chop and swooped down on Dean and Deluca’s top-rated rainbow cake for dessert. Before the night was over, we made semi-concrete plans to hit foodie haunts we’ve never been to before in Singapore and just let ourselves go. Anyway, there’s always running and yoga to turn to when things get a little bit out of hand.

RainbowCakeDeanandDeluca

4. Go to a Mariah Carey concert. Okay, this one was not random. I bought the tickets months before but it was just fortuitous that the concert happened during my period of transition. Mariah can still sing and she performed beautifully last night! So haters and trolls, you can all give it a rest now. Give the lady a break. She’s been through a lot.

TheElusiveChanteuse2014

5. Go to a yoga and music festival on the beach! What can be better than these three things – beach, yoga and music -combined? Them three plus a lifetime supply of Ben & Jerry’s! Jest aside, I’m glad that I signed up for SoulScape SG where  I met a lot of likeminded yoga and fitness enthusiasts and got to do some fun things right on the beach! Never mind that the sight of their yoga-toned and taut bodies made me feel overweight.

SoulScapeSG

6. Repurpose old clothes. I started with a major spring cleaning session and, tadaaah, found clothes I have not worn in ages which I am now in the thick of repurposing so they don’t go to waste. While repurposing ex-lovers is a big no-no, I cannot say the same thing for, you know, things.

7. Reorganise stuff. Books, clothes, bags, shoes, kitchen items, digital photo albums, etc. Basically, anything messy that I can get my hands on, I will eventually reorganise.

8. Plan for winter holiday… (or any other holiday because now I have 20 plus paid vacation leaves a year to use whenever and however which way I want!) Planning is actually more of Hubby’s hard skill but I do get involved occasionally by scouring Instagram and Pinterest for places I want to visit and haranguing him nonstop to consider plugging it into the itinerary.

So there you go. Bottomline, we all have different ways of dealing with a major transition in life and mine just happened to have come together to form this beautiful pattern, for which I am truly grateful. And now that I have put the past behind me, it’s time to plan, nay, just BE awesome in life everyday.