Tag Archives: France

A Weekend Abroad: HSGS Goes to Calais

Sam and John Calais Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Last weekend, Mr Hello and I spent some quality time together, and headed over to Calais for the day. Now, Calais is not known generally as the home of ‘cool’ in France, (let’s be honest, it’s no Paris), but the Mr and I quite like a bit of grunge, and Calais was an easy trip away for us.

We live in Kent, so getting over to France was a simple matter of hopping on a train, and then onto The Spirit of France, which happens to be the biggest ferry I’ve ever seen. I am just a country girl after all, you know.

I’ve only ever taken the Eurostar before, so while the trip did take longer than I’ve previously experienced, it is quite nice to be able to walk around, and hey, get a glass of wine if the mood struck me (it did).

Sam Dover Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha France, Here We Come Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha Mr Hello in Dover Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha Lovely Dover House Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

First stop: Dover. The south east part of Kent gets a bad rap for being somewhat down at heel, which to a certain extent is true. From another perspective, these towns are glorious monuments to the age of the English Holiday. I am always struck by the wonderful architecture here, and each time I come to Dover I am greeted by more and more cute cafés and boutique hotels. There are so many pretty walks here, so I encourage you to put any preconceptions aside, and make the trip down, even just for the day.

And so, to Calais:

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Home of theatre, and modern art.

Architecture in Calais Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha
Melancholic and lovely, no?

We spent an hour or so getting lost and somewhat despondent in the suburbs of Calais, before stumbling right onto the Museum of Fine Arts, i.e. our favourite place. Mr H is a wonderful artist, and was really struck that this unassuming building was filled with so many treasures. We couldn’t help ourselves, and bought a poster to remind us of the visit.

Musée des Beaux Arts Calais Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Calais is home to a moving representation of the Les Bourgeois de Calais, four citizens of Calais who sacrificed themselves to Edward III during the Hundred Years War, to save the rest of their city. The statue was created by mother flippin’ RODIN guys. It’s pretty impressive, and its proportions are strangely captivating. Here’s a sneak peek:

Bourgeois in Calais Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

It hardly does it justice really.

On a slightly more upbeat note, we also popped into the Continental wonderland that is Carrefour. Our mission? To obtain some delicious booze at knock down prices. At first I was like this:

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and then I was like this:

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Bliss, really. We came away with some orange bitters called Picon, and a little bottle of the aniseed pastis Ricard. We got about 1.5 litres in total for about 20 euros, which we both thought was quite reasonable indeed!

Over the day we ended up walking approximately 17 kilmetres, which Google leads me to believe is about 10.5 miles. I am absolutely appalled by that number, to tell you the truth. So. Much. Walking. We were in desperate need of refreshments, and luckily, these were presented to us via the gastronomical stylings of my new favourite French restaurant, Au Coq D’or (The Golden Rooster).

Au Coq D'Or Calais Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

I did my absolute best to order in my gradually worsening French, and we enjoyed a beautiful starter of langoustines and fresh buttered baguette on the house. Mr H ordered the mussels and I had the steak. All this, with two glasses of Pinot Noir each, came to only 42 euros. For the quality of the food, it was an absolute steal. Please take my advice and go here if you are ever in Calais!

Stuffed to the gills, we waddled back to the Port, and I boarded the boat as an EU Citizen at last! The atmosphere on board was convivial, but that didn’t stop us catching a minute or two of open-mouthed shut eye. Forgive me, it was a very early start.

I really found Calais to be such an interesting city. I’m looking forward to getting to know it a little better and to find more of it’s authentic personality. It’s so easy to stick to the tried and true tourist path, but little treasures like great restaurants and lovely art galleries that make day trips abroad so enjoyable. We are really so lucky to live in this part of the world.

How to be Parisian (and also: How Not To)

How to be Parisian 1 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

How to be Parisian 2 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

How to be Parisian 3 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

How to be Parisian 4 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

I have extreme doubts that this confession in any way distinguishes me from the general public, but regardless; it is well known in certain circles that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for Paris. I would even go so far to say that Paris is my spiritual home. I feel like if I am good enough in this life, I may be lucky and reincarnated into my true, French form in the next. A girl can hope, hey?

This Christmas I was lucky enough to receive How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are by Sophie Mas, Audrey Divan, Caroline de Maigret and Anne Berest from my aunt. You could say that she knows me well. The lady knows how to spot a Francophile at 20 paces, let’s just put it like that, ok?

In all honesty, I completely devoured this book. It’s written in short, pithy chapters and takes you through first dates, friendships, marriage, men, and dinner parties with even a few tried ‘n true recipes thrown in for good measure. It is very tongue-in-cheek but honestly, that’s what I liked about it. It makes fun of itself, in that the authors know it’s ridiculous to want to be a Parisienne, because in some (many) respects, they themselves are faintly ridiculous. But they just do it with style.

I really recommend this book if you’re into a bit of French fun, and secretly believe that having a signature scent really is quite chic.

As a bonus for you all, here’s how to not be very Parisian when you’re taking photos. Even if your leggings are really rather splendid:

How to be Parisian 5 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

How to be Parisian 6 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

If you could be any other nationality, what would it be?

Moscow, Paris….Rochester

A spot of Saturday opportunity shopping never goes astray. I’ve inherited the gene from ma mere, although I’m certain she’ll attest to the fact that I simply loathed op-shopping growing up. It was the smell, and the endless racks of creepy early 90’s lingerie that I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting EVER. I still shudder at the thought.
But I can think of at least three experiences where I pointed and laughed at items that would now be hugely desirable and uber-cool-retro-vintage. I pointed and laughed and walked the hell away. I wasn’t ready for that jelly. Oh how times have changed. I give you, my latest spoils:
Heaven is Russian literature and French lessons on vinyl! I haven’t read Anna Karenina before, but I’ll be proud to while away the bus journey holding this sumptuous edition. Look at it! Doesn’t it whisper sweet literary nothings in thine ears?
I definitely pranced home holding these beauties in my hot little hands. I had visions of perfecting my shamefully rusty French, or at the very least getting a number of satisfactorily vintage sayings under one’s precisely pinned hat. There was the slight fear that it would be another well-intentioned purchase that sits, unhappy and neglected (although absurdly attractively) atop one’s bookcase, but non. This time was to be different, amis, this time I would rise to the occasion and LEARN something, dammit.
Everything was right with the world…..UNTIL…quelle horreur mes amis! QUELLE. The records are 78s. I have as 33/45 player so the distinguished chap on the recording sounds like he’s taking the piss “FRrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaancaiseeeeeeeer”. Quel dommage, but not to worry, I’m sure there’s beaucoup de 78 players lurking in the shops of Kent. There must be, dammit, or I really have recommitted the mortal sin of buying something romantically useless. This I cannot abide.
But not to worry, amis, this is just one more reason to continue on the charity shop prowl, non?

On Green Dolphin Street

Luckily for me, and not to mention your goodselves, I realised I couldn’t legitimately call myself a blogger if I didn’t use Instagram. So I recently scurried off to er, my phone and downloaded that lovely app. Just for you my sweets – is a badly taken, yet effortlessly cool picture of a bloody good book

It’s not a secret to those who have heard me speak about books in the last while (well, the last ‘ever’ really) that Sebastian Faulks is my favourite author. It all started with a Cate Blanchett film about WWII France, and I was hooked.

On Green Dolphin Street is a novel about an English couple, Charlie and Mary Van der Linden, living in quite-recently-post-McCarthy Washington. Charlie is an entertaining alcoholic diplomat slowly sinking into the void, and Mary is his inimitable wife. Their life seems lovely, if slightly fraying around the edges, yet both their worlds seem to change irrevocably after the arrival of journalist Frank Renzo.

I don’t want to give too much away, although I’m not sure I can help it – but if there is one thing that Faulks can write about, it’s passion. I find myself consistently groaning with the sheer weight of emotion in his books, and it would be almost too much to bear if it wasn’t so utterly lovely, so delicious and so life-affirming.

Most of my experience of Faulks has been through his French Trilogy of Birdsong, The Girl at the Lion D’Or and Charlotte Gray (that’s the Cate one!) and I thought it was the French aspect that made me swoon each time. I’m a raging Francophile, and I always associated the lingering romanticism of France with Faulks’ writing. But this time, the setting couldn’t be further away from that, and it goes to show – me at least – that the boy has style.

I think this book, perhaps more so than the French books Faulks has written, will inspire deep chats with chums. It was challenging without being didactic or overly sentimental. I highly recommend a read.

Books I Love…

I’m a reader. A big one. I do go through phases where I don’t have the headspace to read anything at all, but then BAM! I’m straight back into them again. I often find that when I feel stressed or unsure or scared or in any way emotional, I like to go back an re-read books that made me feel amazing the first time around.

So I thought I start a regular section called Books I Love, to share with you all some of my favourite reads. So here we go……Numèro Un:

I just adore Sebastian Faulks. I love the way he writes. Such detail!

It’s a story of a young Scottish lass who, after being told her pilot lover has disappeared over occupied France, decides to train as a spy and work for the French Resistance. I wont tell you any more, but if you love the 1940’s and war stories with a human side, then read this. I keep seeing it everywhere in op-shops, so I’m taking it as a cosmic sign that I need to read it again.

There are a few moments in this novel that are a bit of an emotional wrench. The way Faulks writes about love – it really is wonderful. I love the character of Peter so much, actually I love them all! It really got me thinking about the idea of being honourable. Magnifique.

I saw the film with Cate Blanchett a long time before I read the book, and as always, the book was so much better than the film.

Having said that, I did love the film, and I absolutement loathe it when people whinge about film adaptations. They are film adaptations. There’s no way they can put the entire book up on screen, there’s just not enough time. When I see a film of a book I love, all I care about is that the film makes me feel the same way that the book did. That sort of lifting feeling, where all the characters are your friends and everything is just heavenly.

There’s nothing better than looking forward to going to bed, because then you get to read your book! Or when you pray that no-one you know will get on the bus, because all you want to do is ignore the real world and delve into a make believe one. Bliss