And the journey goes on

It’s been SUCH A LONG TIME since I’ve written ANYTHING. It’s been busy, chaotic, wonderful, a little bit of laziness and everything mixed.

The last few months…..I said ‘YES’ to the man I love, passed my Pilates Studio exam, became a Pre & Postnatal Specialist and fully submerged in the world of teaching Pilates, learning along the way, been on the long-awaited honeymoon trip, moved to another house, went on a short trip with a best friend, and on… and on…..

No one ever tells you how hard or easy it is to be a freelance Pilates teacher, perks and downside of your decisions, advice are difficult to obtain, and everyone else’s so busy with their lives.

Have been a freelance Pilates teacher in a while. I do understand why some enjoys teaching in one studio, for it’s less hassle to travel around the city, more stable income and classes, and other perks that I might not be aware of. I do however, enjoy being freelance despite the fact that I have to sometimes run around the city like a maniac, having few hours in between sessions and cannot think of anywhere to go (can’t afford a massage everytime one got a break right! :P) I love to the feeling of being free, the fact that I do not have to deal with the ‘office politics’ that happens naturally in a workplace ( sort of left my office job for that am not going back to the environment that I cannot deal with, others who could deal with that, bravo I salute to that).

Starting off as a freelance is quite a challenge, one that I can see is the search of opportunity: the constant asking around and emailing, bit of a self doubt from time to time, and the huge amount of self-control to do something ‘productive’ during the days / hours where there’s zero client or class. My obsession with skincare products has been growing by the day out of control and I have got to control the search for reviews on the addicting Youtube, alongside with all the research I do with those products!

At the moment, there are days where there is only an hour’s class for the day, while somedays there are more. And I cannot help but wonder how other instructors teach throughout the day, while maintaining that ‘quality’ of teaching. How long can one teach per day? 3 hours? 5 hours? or 8 hours? or as long as there’s a little 15 /30 minutes break in between it would suffice for retaining energy (and brain power) for the following classes and clear the brain? Sometimes after 4 hours of consecutive teaching I find myself losing that eloquence in articulating as well as the very first class of the day. Are there any strategies? Anyone? Anything?

And time… ah the mysterious TIME… does slips away faster than when I worked in the office, how on earth it’s nearly June already! is that’s supposed to be a positive sign(?) that I genuinely enjoy what I am doing now? I do, very much indeed.

Interesting confusing little world

It’s always interesting how we all live in this one big ‘space’ but in our own little world, where the thought of moving from one circle to another scares a lot of people (hence comes the description ‘comfort zone’), and definitely scares the hell out of me (see how much time and preparation I requires to make a decision). And how easy it is for one to wander and get lost. And growing with age definitely takes some of the courage out of me.

On a side-note: I quitted the office job! Sometimes I wonder whether if the decision should be made at this moment, or at all. Currently am intending to start another part-time job, so could still have the time to practice Pilates, as well as being able to contribute on our future projects.

So, interestingly, an experience with a friend lately has again made me rethinking about the definition of human relationships, and how one defines ‘friend’ in the modern days. I used to think that I have lots of ‘friends’ until I realize that a lot of them would only contact you when they want something from you, they wish to lend money from you, or nothing at all. Life’s too short – Selection and rethinking needed.

Still am very excited with the extra time I have to  spend on discovering new books and re-reading my favourite books, trying out recipes, and practising, revising and teaching Pilates. In the past month I have been practising hard, but not studying enough still!

Now I am with my family travelling in Europe, which might not be the best time to travel since the Mat exam in approaching, yet it’s the perfect opportunity to have my family together and voyage a little, reconnect a little, with inside and out.

A New Journey, yet to begin.

So with my partner’s support, the decision’s been made, that I am going to quit my office job. It’s exciting, nervous, exhilarating, worrying… and a mix of many other emotions.

For now, the anxiety outweighs the excitement, where I tend to worry a little, sometimes too much, way before incidents happen. Am I excited? Yes! Am I nervous? VERY! But it is all good now once the decision’s been made, I just need to be slightly fearless and keep believing.

Have been teaching fair amount lately, about 3-5 hours per week. It’s pretty tough to work, teach, take lessons, plan wedding, meal planning, spending time with my partner, rest/leisure and trying to strike an equilibrium between all these.

I found that it’s not exactly easy to teach a class with very different level. I guess one has to give in to the fact that there are people who are very dedicated, whether they could do the exercise ‘correctly’ or not, and there are others who would give up after trying twice. How to motivate those ones? and how to not let the other one de-motivates my hard-working client?

I remember one instructor told me, first we are too scared / shy to touch (tactile cues), then the more we teach, we seem to correct them too much, and even correcting them before clients move. It’s important to just let them move, see how their body is, that day, then correct them. And to be honest, if someone corrects me that much (which sort of means that I am doing it SOOOO wrong)… I’d not be so pleased. I mean, that’s sort of discouraging, right?

And now that I am so close to actually changing my career, finances place a big part of my life, all that planning and thinking and calculating. One thing that needs to be discussed is that I’d be increasing the price after my exam, and don’t know if anyone feels the difficulty to speak about $money$? Speaking about prices and all that makes me really nervous…. like I’d stress about it a week before actually having to speak to my ‘clients’. Maybe again, that all comes back to the ‘confidence’ issue? Ouch I might just read too many magazines haha.

Let’s not let anxiety turns into fear, which ruins everything. Stay fearless, stay adventurous. Be curious.

First hand Pilates teaching experience

Back to reality also means back to Pilates training, which I gladly am willing to do so.

Fortunately enough, a dear friend referred a few friends who are interested in taking Pilates lessons and does not mind that I am a student and need practice and more hours for apprentice teaching, and so far after 6 times of teaching, it does not get easier or less nerve wracking, but it is really a good way to learn when you have someone to practice your teaching on. ‘Clients’ normally pay about 5euros for an hour of private session, which works pretty well since they would automatically pays attention as if they are having a ‘real’ class, and I’ll treat them as real clients.

They all have different levels of activities daily and at different stages of life so it makes it more challenging and interesting! One of the lady was really strong, so she could do more challenging moves, while others have medium level of daily activities, but all of them perform pretty well and understand my cues and (providing that I am being clear and precise). I still struggle as to how to keep the class fun and them focus, and to put in slightly more ‘theories’ in between movements for some of the ‘clients’, which directly reflects how much time I put into revising the anatomy materials (which is not sufficient just yet!).

Teaching well or not is easy to sense, which really depends on how familiar I am with the exercise, and frankly I could not pass the exam with the current level…. yikes!  Anyway it has been very enjoyable so far; the revising, preparing, note flipping, wondering, and puzzling, listening, observing, teaching.

The thought of quitting my full time job has crossed my mind for thousands of times, and having shared that thought with friends, most of them replied that “this is not a good time”, since we are in the midst of planning the wedding. The wedding itself is not going to be an extravagant one, but it’s just the cost of having wedding in my city is very high, with not much of a ‘rustic’ choice. On the other hand, as much as I’d love to leave my desk job RIGHT NOW, there are few enjoyable things: stable income, dressing up, stable schedule, casual Fridays, few nice colleagues etc.

Then the questions is: when is the good/ right time? One would always have other priorities: wedding, a course, constructing the garden / fixing parts of the house, travelling, saving for a baby, and much more to come. The list seems infinite, making life exciting, which also makes me realize that there is a time for everything, and this could be mine. Thing is I have been struggling in places where I do not belong for years and now being able to found something that I like and could be good at, and make a living out of it, it’s an opportunity I should grab. (Somehow Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ ringing in my ears) 😛

What makes it difficult for me would be the fact that: a, I ain’t rich b, did not have the habit of saving money (duh after years of Mom’s nagging, now I realize how important it is), c, have only start during these few month d, haven’t got my own Pilates client base etc. etc.

But am very thankful for having a very supportive partner. And if we work hard to live within the budget we set, and me working hard to succeed, things might turn out just fine.

Okay I gotta stop blah-blahing…..

Still I am at my seat pondering when and where and how… and all those unknown….

Les Deux-Aples. and more heavenly yummy food.

Final stop: The amazing Les Deux-Aples.

Have heard a lot about Les Deux Aples in France: picturesque, expensive, chocolat chaud, raclette. During this visit we’ve decided to learn snowboarding and to work and burn off the Christmas meals. Watching the weather report intensely, his family in the Aples have urged us to leave on a Thursday night, since traffic and snow was predicted on Friday. Chains were bought on the way, to avoid slippery roads  and being stuck in the snow.

After 6 hours of traffic and slow but careful driving, we arrived at 2am, and it was freezing! Finding a place to park was a pain so we had to park about 10mins walk away from the rented studio. The studio was small but well equipped with cooking utensils, it was good since eating our in the Alpes could be really pricey. The first night was freezing, but luckily it got better the following days.

Morning we woke up and a busy day lies ahead of us: find the ski school, figured out which station to go to and meet the instructor, which cable car to take, how much to go up there, where to buy ski passes, how much and where to rent equipments.

View from studio
View from studio

Passes are divided into Ski Pass an Pedestrian Pass. Skiers might be tempted to buy pedestrian tickets since it’s so much cheaper, but there are monitors / operators there so if one purchases the cheaper pedestrian ticket and dresses like a skier, one would most likely get caught.

Anyway, got snowboard, shoes, and lesson fee settled, we started searching for a coffee but as usual they do not have SB-size Americano, so we settled in a restaurant for lunch instead.

Le Passe Montagne
98 Avenue de la Muzelle, 38860 Les Deux-Alpes
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g196707-d4424484-Reviews-Le_Passe_Montagne-Les_Deux_Alpes_Isere_Rhone_Alpes.html

At first I was a bit worried since it did not appear to be the top-10 restaurants in the area. But something caught our interest and we ordered a ravioli aux cepes and it was delightful! Whoever loves mushroom, and/or cream sauce or cheese would be happy to eat it. Ah yes I have nearly forgotten the most important part – is that the HUGE piece of Saint Marcellin on top! SUCH A JOY!!!

Raviolis aux cepes. Saint Marcellin on top
Raviolis aux cepes. Saint Marcellin on top

After that lovely meal we made our way up to 1600m for the first snowboard lesson. He skied before so he’s used to the sensation to slide and glide, but I was a complete disaster. It was gloomy and windy during that afternoon, and while I wasn’t exactly well equipped (only 2 layers of clothes, no ski mask, no bonnet), it was not particularly enjoyable, and a lot of times, I prefer to fall, and did, a lot, a lot.

Second day we had our lesson the morning and was slightly better since I had a mask, but still the falling wasn’t fun. I love challenging myself with new sports, but when I landed on their back, knees or wrists for about and above 30 times, it gets pretty agonising. We decided to have lunch on one of the station since it was a beautiful day. This is a great restaurant with comparatively reasonable price, and the food was very good. We tried another restaurant at the top of the mountain (which was pricey and tasted awful)

Chalet La Toura – Restaurant Altitude
at Altitude 2600m
in the middle of Jandri Express

Being not at all that hungry, I ordered a split pea soup, and it was served in Le Cruset. The soup did not taste particularly yummy, but everything tastes nicer in Le Cruset :P. Friend ordered pizza and finished within 10 mins so it had to be delicious. My man ordered baked pasta dish, with delicious creamy bacon sauce (really cannot recall the name of the dish!), it was bubbling, saucy and tasted amazing in that sunny cloudless day.

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Third day, the falling continues, I got frustrated and bruised, but at least back from the mountain we had another nice nice meal:

Le Rustique
61 Avenue Muzelle, 38860 Deux Alpes (Les), France, Les Deux-Alpes, France

I chose this restaurant since the name’s pretty catchy, rustic food, yum. We had salad, beef buger, steak, and chicken with tikka masala sauce, which are all very tasty. 20150101_214256 20150101_214250  20150101_051940

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The weather’s still too cold for me even after all those meals, and falling. I know it was going to be cold, and I always thought that I could deal with cold pretty well (from childhood memory) but obviously I was wrong! The cold weather has beaten me up! (like seriously I cannot stop whinning about the weather!!!)

For our New Year’s eve meal, our friend has very kindly reserved a restaurant and for just 50 euros per person, it is a really good value. The menu consist of starter (scallops & langoustine salad / fois gras) , main course (raclette / fondue / steak) and ‘suprise’ dessert. All of them tasted fantastic, I felt like I was going to explode with all that I have eaten during this trip. The countdown to 2015 was a bit  ‘off’ since nowadays on one seem to know the ‘real’ time, everyone seem to have set their time few minutes slower / faster. Ah well who cares, as long as we were happy to have our friends and family with us.

La Tourra
36 Avenue de la Muzelle

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The last day, one of our friends insisted that I have to try the fondue in 2-Aples. I have never been a fan of fondue since the ones that I’ve had were very much filled with booze and weren’t pleasant to eat. However during this trip I have had so many raclette and was convinced by my friends that THIS, is the place which  might change my mind, and it did.

This magical little restaurant is called:

Chez Le Goulois
70 Avenue de la Muzelle, 38860 Deux Alpes (les), France +33 4 76 79 06 44 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chez-le-Gaulois/214368035313305 http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g196707-d3395356-Reviews-Chez_Le_Gaulois-Les_Deux_Alpes_Isere_Rhone_Alpes.html

It’s a little boutique restaurant with wooden chairs and tables, with jambon hanging all over the shop, and smells stunning with cheese. Raclettes are priced from 16 – 25 euros, while fondus range from 18 – 22 euros. We all ordered fondue: Fondue aux cinq fromages (yes FIVE types of cheese), fondue avec cidre, fondue gaulois (basic fondue with beaufort), all are served with bread (free) and we order extra charcuterie, beaufort salad (very generous amount of stredded beaufort). It’s hands down THE BEST fondue I’ve ever had, and has successfully and completely erased my previous misconception towards fondue. On the other hand I am still skeptical to try other fondues to avoid ruining this perfect memory. Yes! it’s THAT good.

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Jambon hanging, cheese laying around
Beaufort salad
Beaufort salad
Fondue aux cinq fromages
Fondue aux cinq fromages

This meal is a perfect end to our Christmas holiday and I cannot wait for more holidays to come!

I love how you learn a little bit more about yourself especially during hoidays and opening to new adventure. This time I definitely learned a lot about us and myself, and that I do not like holidays in icy weather.

Now back to reality, work and Pilates practices!

 

Strasbourg’s famous Christmas market – Christkindelsmärik!

So let’s getting moving. We were trilled to be visiting the most ancient and famous Christmas market in Europe and guess I’ll explain very slightly about the market for those who have yet to visit it. Christkindelsmärik started in 1570 and there are about 300 chalets in 11 areas, which are indeed quite a short distance away so it felt smaller than expected, but has it’s very own charm in every way.

We arrived before noon and checked-in to the Ibis Strasbourg Centre Gare, which was perfectly situated right opposite of the train station, and just 5-minutes walk from the beginning of the first market. The markets were full of tasty-smelling food ( choucroute and sausages, Crepes, Bretzel, pain aux herbs), vin chaud, handmade goodies, Christmas tree decorations.

Everything is easily accessible around Starsbourg centre. We have not used any form of transportation besides walking, and when one’s tired you could always stop for a cafe / chocolat chaud, and since it’s too crowded, it’d totally be a joy to travel on foot. We wanted to visit all markets in 2 days so we asked for a map and tick them off one-by-one, stopping occasionally for vin chaud and yummy crepes.

Had to queue for 15mins to have these chips!
Had to queue for 15mins to have these chips!

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Choucroute
Choucroute

For the night, it was a beautiful scene walking to the restaurant. Reservation’s been made at Pierre Bois & Feu (and merely because of it’s fun gimmick – cooking steak with an iron)

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Pierre Bois & Feu
6 Rue du Bain aux Roses, 67000 Strasbourg, France
+33 3 88 36 25 59
(requires reservation)

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Main selling-point of the restaurant is beef but since I do not eat beef, I’ve ordered a salad (very pleasant) and a fish (not worth mentioning).

Beef tartar on toast - hors d'œuvre
Beef tartar on toast – hors d’œuvre
My salad
My salad
My fish roll
My fish roll
HIs starter - fois gras
HIs starter – fois gras
His stead - under the very-heated iron
His stead – under the very-heated iron
his dessert - cheese
his dessert – cheese

Kicked start the second day with a nice breakfast of croissant and coffee by the rive, then more strolling around the city. Lunch was supposed to be filled with Christmas market-good but since we had a what we fancied on the first day, I have chosen this restaurant for late-lunch.

Cheese tower. How amazingly-looking is that!
Cheese tower. How amazingly-looking is that!

La Cloche a Fromage
27, Rue des Tonneliers, 67000 Strasbourg, France (Petite France Centre)
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187075-d778175-Reviews-La_Cloche_a_Fromage-Strasbourg_Bas_Rhin_Alsace.html
(Their mouth-watering website : http://www.fromagerie-tourrette.com/)

so they say their hours are :

Hours:
Mon – Tue 9:00 am – 12:00 pm / 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Wed – Fri 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am – 6:00 pm

It was a Monday so we wandered and waited till 3ish pm to go the the shop, only to realize that the one mentioned on the website is a cheese shop (La Cloche à Fromage – La Boutique), while its restaurant stop their service at about 2ish pm.

What a bummer!!
With disappointment, we wandered a bit more and in the end we passed by this cheese bistro: 
Cheese room
Cheese room
Gorgonzola- to die for
Gorgonzola- to die for

Both of us had 1 cheese platter each with 5 different cheese. That Gorgonzola was soooooooo delish I had a small bowl of it to myself 🙂

That added a nice touch to the end of this Strasbourg trip, and the 2 days-1 night seemed a little excessive for us. And was very excited to celebrate first Christmas with my partner’s family!

Paris, France – let the Christmas journey begins

So it’s been a while since and is pretty obvious I have been indulging in my voyage through France and it’s been nothing but fantastic. This post would not be about Pilates, but (be warned!), will be purely about food, pleasure, restaurants, mainly in France. So please for those who does not care about food, or France in this case, do feel free to stop here.

First station, Paris. In Paris, steps are a bit lighter, heart’s a bit merrier, appetite’s bigger, sky’s bluer – well the sky was not blue at all when we were there actually, it was rainy and gloomy, but did not affect of our mood to visit.

Iconic landmarks were well visited times before so want to squeeze in other new experiences into our 3-days trip, while instead the seemingly pointless strolling in the city of romance is just right for us, and there was a lot of walking, eating, sightseeing, wandering, coffee drinking, crêpe eating.

While pilates has always been lingering at the back of my mind, somehow the walking got me completely knackered and ended up not having the energy to do so. However one morning (and only one), the urge of ‘needing’ some Pilates wakes me up when I desperately require a stretch in spine, hamstring, the whole body. After just 20 minutes of twisting stretching roll ups (didn’t get to do roll-overs), it had definitely made me feel better and lighter, (not to sound so hard-sell….)

Of course, pilates ain’t magic so it has not diminish the fatigue in that mere 20 minutes, and nor the fatigue has decrease any of my morale to further explore the city.

Warned by past experiences’ pricey & disappointing food experience, this time I did just enough research to get us to few surprisingly good restaurants.

Right after we settled down, heart’s racing to go to the restaurant-first-pick:

Le Cafe de la Nouvelle Mairie
19, rue des Fosses-Saint-Jacques, Patheon, Paris, France (Panthéon) 75005
Nearest transport: Cardinal Lemoine (10) or Luxembourg (RER B)

It’s about 10 minutes walk from Sorbonne so if one’s planning to visit the University, this would be a nice restaurant afterwards. We waited for a little while and got arranged a table by the window. We ordered a slice of Torte (similar to a Quiche Lorraine), foie gras, and Rillette de poisson. The torte was so delicious, flavourful and the crust is semi-thick just how I like it. Foie gras seems to be too filling even for the foie-gras-lover and he could not finish the whole plate, it was delicious though, he said. Our friend does not like cheese so she opt out the cheese from the rillette, which made it slightly tasteless. All the plates are small to medium size so it leaves the stomach with some room for other yummy snacks later.

Wine board (above) and menu (below)

Torte Rillette de Poissons

after lunch snack - Churros
after lunch snack – Churros

The other morning we re-visited Montmarte as it was such a fine day and after amusing ourselves with the Paris view which filled with artistic air, we headed to La Toinette for lunch, then realized it’s only opened for dinner (ah careless me).

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Forgot what it’s called, we tried Almond and Pistachio flavours and they were soo yummy and gooey!

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Passed by it on the way to Montmarte.


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This board acrylic paint is art itself.

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After some slight researching a restaurant that caught my fancy was merely 5 minutes away:

La Cantine de la Cigale Cantine
124 Boulevard de Rochechouart, 75018 Paris, France
+33 1 55 79 10 10
http://www.cantinelacigale.fr/en.html

We ordered a lunch menu (salad and main course), and a plate of charcuterie. The salad was very refreshing and yummy! The main dish, pot au feu (beef stew) was just alright, guess I prefer boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin, with a more substantial sauce.

Endive salad with blue cheese
Pot Au Feu
Pot Au Feu
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Charcuterie

Shakespeare and Company Shakespear 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75 005 Métro: Saint-Michel

Shakespeare and Company
Shakespear 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75 005
Métro: Saint-Michel

A random thought has urged me to go to Shakespeare and Company (bookshop) – those who are as in love with the movie “Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset” as I do would not be unfamiliar with it. Surprisingly there was quite a crowd lining up to go into the shop and the impatient us just took few photos outside the shop.

Les marchés de Noël à Paris  in Champs-Élysées  was lovely, and am a self-proclaimed market-addicts: Christmas markets, New Year

20141221_005704m20141221_010813arket, food  market, flea market etc. We went to the marchés right before having dinner with friends and we both globbed down a crepe and the baked potato with Munster. Both tasted heavenly with the magic of the Christmas air and the cold weather.

One of the restaurant I really wanted to go to is Chez l’ami Jean, have heard a lot of good comments about it but unfortunately it was fully booked. So our friends has kindly chosen this cosy restaurant instead.

Edgar
31 rue d’Alexandrie, 75002 Paris
http://www.edgarparis.com/
Métro: Sentir / Strasbourg / Saint Denis

We got off the metro in Sentir and the restaurant came into sight in less to 10 minutes walk, and it’d only be so nice to wine and dine on the terrace during summer-time, well it would be nice to be anywhere outdoor in Paris during summer-time. We came early to the restaurant so there was only us and 2 other diners, and got placed on a very comfy sofa seat.

By the time we finished our ‘snacks’ from the Christmas market, I was about 80% full, but somehow it would be quite disrespectful if I do not order anything from the restaurant (or it’s just me wanting to try as much as I could during this trip) . In the end I ordered fish…(let’s not talk about the sauce and the vegetables that accompanied the fish because the sauce’s tasteless and the veggies were to hard to get a bit into.)  Anyway, the fish was sooo perfectly cooked..was basically right at the point where raw meets cooked, so it’s still perfectly tender and juicy.

Boudin noir – like black pudding
My perfectly cooked fish
My perfectly cooked fish
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Steak-frites

The last day in Paris includes a full day of walking and diner with friends. Determined to go to Pont Neuf (don’t know if anyone is as obsessed with Pont Neuf as I am), but it is on my everytime-must-pass-by list in Paris. And of course Le pont des Arts is a must-do, and even though many of the locks has been taken down due to their weight on the bridge, it did not stop us from putting on a cadenas d’amour on the side of the bridge.

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Wandering in Paris outdoor in the cold was not all enjoyable. And meeting up with friends brought us this tiny home-style Italian restaurant:

Gusto Italia
199 rue de Grenelle 75007 Paris
+33 1 45 55 00 43

Looking around us and every plate looks delightful. Planned to order their “fishball in tomato sauce” but unfortunately they ran out of that exact dish that I want (which happens very often), and the owner recommended a fish carpaccio in sauce. It’s supposed to be a western dish but it weirdly resembles a fish sashimi with soya sauce and oil. Their portions are very generous but we all managed to finish them, they are really y.

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Glad that we had this fantastically yummy meal before heading to Strasbourg for another very-famous Christmas market…. Oh our schedule’s so tight it does not leave many room for the heart to wander….