Celebrating European Heritage Day in France

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda - All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes
Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

This past weekend was French Heritage Day (Les Journées du Patrimoine). Since 1984, France has opened its doors to history and culture. The weekend offers opportunities to visit government buildings, monuments, and other sites that are normally closed to the public. Entrance to these places, in addition to those that are regularly open to public, are free. Many monuments offer guided tours or special activities during the weekend. You don’t need to be French, as visits are open to everyone on the third weekend of each September… I highly recommend it!

This year, we decided to take the kids to the Château de Vincennes. We planned on visiting the château, the keep (tallest medieval keep in France) and the grounds… but we had no idea of what a treat we would get until we walked up to the front of the château. What a great surprise!

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

Several associations brought us on a little trip back in time, building memorable moments for our little ones. They were amazed to see the American flag waving on a military jeep alongside another jeep displaying the French flag. Their very own two cultures were present, which brought about great discussion.

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda - All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes –  The Association Vincennes en Anciennes
Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda - All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes – The Association Vincennes en Anciennes Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

Within the courtyard of the Chateau, we got a glimpse of life of as a soldier in a military camp reenactment…

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda - All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes
Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

1815-1915

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda - All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes
Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda - All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes
Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

Great thanks to everyone who took part in making the events at Château de Vincennes truly fabulous. Bravo!

We’re already looking forward to next year… Maybe we’ll visit the Palais de l’Elysée!  🙂

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Are you this guy? Remember… life isn’t only about work. 

Remember:  take time to break away and have some fun!

We had a blast creating this video & finding the most amazing locations in Paris.

All rights reserved Bellanda ®

All rights reserved
Bellanda ®

 AGAIN AGAIN – Music performed by AFTERMOON

Video  –  A Story developed & created by Steve Guibert & Bellanda

Thank you to AFTERMOON for trusting us to create this clip for your music.

Recorded and mixed by Benjamin Le Jean @Gaijin Studio

Mastered by Chab

Video  –  A Story developed & created by Steve Guibert & Bellanda

Directed and Edited by Steve Guibert

Actor – Jean-Rodolphe Laclau

Film locations : Paris, France – CD&B offices and Caveau des oubliettes

Special thanks to CD&B, Ramcesprod, Crisprod, Caveau des oubliettes, Kasia Dietz, Fanny Mikol Frequelin, Zoé Mikol and to all of you in the bar scene who helped make this clip happen.

Aftermoon Official YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVxF

Aftermoon Official Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/aftermoon

Aftermoon Official Website : http://www.aftermoon-band.com

Aftermoon Official Twitter : https://twitter.com/Aftermoonband

Steve Guibert : steve.guibert@gmail.com

Steve Guibert LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/SteveGuibert

Bellanda LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/bellanda

Bellanda Twitter : https://twitter.com/BellandaInParis

Bellanda Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/Bellanda

REAL… NEW YORK BAGELS ARE NOW IN PARIS!

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

Yes, you read that correctly. REAL… freshly baked, New York bagels are finally here! Some of you might ask yourself why I would even care with all the incredibly delicious French pastries everywhere. France has some of the best food/bread/pastries in the world, and when I first moved here I couldn’t get enough of those French goodies. After a while, my taste buds wanted something from back home… bagels. Take it from experience, no pain au chocolate or croissant will do when you have your heart set on a warm bagel that is crispy on the outside & has that perfectly textured inside.

The craving can at times become so strong that you start running around, trying just about everything and anything resembling a bagel in hopes that you might find something that comes close to satisfying your desire. It’s not one of my proudest moments, but I even began to think about taking a trip back home just to get a good bagel fix… that is, until I saw the airfare prices. That would have been one very expensive bagel… right?!

There are those of you who might be asking, aren’t bagels already in France? Yes, it’s true. You can even find so-called bagels in local French supermarkets. To those people, the totally addicted bagel lover like myself might say, you poor thing, you have never tasted the REAL thing. A hard or mushy piece of bland bread that has no real texture and a hole in the middle does not constitute a real bagel.

After searching high and low, and waiting way too many years, freshly baked New York bagels of many flavors have arrived in Paris. Gone are the days when I will have to witness shops in France pull bagels out of the freezer in supermarket packaging, shivering in horror as they pop them into the microwave, charging me a fortune.

Today, there are a few shops that are trying to make more of an effort in baking fresh bagels locally, but those that I have tasted, lacked the true authenticity of what I considered a real bagel. Some say it’s the water that makes them so good, others say it’s the special process… whatever it is, locating a place that makes a bagel just right has gotten easier in France… Bruegger’s has arrived!

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the  Montparnasse Tower! Montparnasse – 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France -  Photo: Bellanda ®

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! Montparnasse – 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

Bruegger’s began more than thirty years ago in New York, and have over 300 bakeries in 26 states today. I love that they use the same time-honored methods of New York bagel bakeries by using flour, water, yeast, salt and malt. In 2011, they joined the GROUPE LE DUFF and in 2013 they began to bring their bagels to France. After a successful, start in Rennes, France, Bruegger’s is now in Paris, at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower. They are hoping to have around 40 bakeries across France in the next 5 years. *Yes, I just did a little happy dance.

I was filled with nervous expectations and hope when I walked into the bagel shop for the first time. Wide-eyed, I tried to soak it all in. Bruegger’s Paris has a New York loft style, with an industrial feel to it… so far so good!

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

Immediately, I noticed all of the, oh so familiar, products from back home… Each time, I bring my Parisian-borne little ones there, their American side seems to take over as they are they are instantly drawn to the Epicerie. “Mommy, they have Fluff!”

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

I couldn’t have been happier when I read the Baked fresh… all day long sign. YES… They really seem to get the whole idea of what bagels are about! There’s nothing like eating freshly baked bagels at any time of the day.

Bruegger’s ships their dough over to France, and bakes their bagels in the exact same fashion as Bruegger’s in New York and across the United States. These bagels are truly the best I have ever had in Paris. Even though, they are a little far in distance from my district, I just can’t seem to get enough of them. But hey, I can’t complain because it’s much closer and cheaper than buying that airline ticket.

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

After being greeted with warm friendly smiles, we chose the bagel bread, sandwich style, along with a side of chips or homemade coleslaw. I’m so glad that they told us about their house specialty ice-tea, made fresh each day. It has become a definite must with each visit.

Bruegger’s has many of the typical sandwiches that you would find back home, in addition to some new ones. At first, I was reluctant to taste what they called the Classic New Yorker Burger… in all of my years in New York, I never saw or even thought about throwing a burger inside a bagel. That said, I just had to try it. What a great surprise… it turned out to be one of my favorites. Go figure, a New York bagel with a French-American twist… nice touch!

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

During our latest visit, we discovered that Cinnamon Raisin bagels are now on the menu (Yay!), and whole wheat bagels will be added in the month of May. They’ve also added a brunch bagel served all day long. Memories of my egg bagel sandwich & coffee rituals before work or after a late night out are flooding in. This was one of my all-time favorites from back home, and I can’t wait to give it a try.

Ok, now for one of my other passions… REAL coffee. I always make room for a coffee, espresso, tea or one of their specialty drinks. There is a trained Barista on the premises who grinds the beans and makes your coffee upon command. What a nice surprise. In addition, their freshly baked muffins are to die for!

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

I don’t know about you… but no visit is complete, unless I can bring home a bag of 6 bagels. I’ve got the entire family addicted to bagels now. This makes the New Yorker in me smile. So, Mom… please send over my bagel slicer for my REAL bagels… I FINALLY need it!

French Bread: Total Addiction!

A love affair with French bread! Bellanda ®

When people think of France, they often think of bread, cheese and wine. The products are so incredibly good that I have had countless meals consisting of just that, and would highly recommend it. However, before you run off and randomly pick a place to buy your bread, there are some things that you should know and look for. Not all bread in France is equal and not all bread sold here would be considered good by the locals. *Gasp!

Perhaps I have had too much time on my hands since I became ill two years ago, but have you ever wondered what makes French bread so good? Here is a little information that I wish I had before I came to France. In order to increase your chances of buying quality bread, look for the words boulangerie, boulanger or artisan on the exterior of the establishment. In 1993, an act concerning bread was passed and then amended into law in 1998 under the leadership of Jean-Pierre Raffarin.  As a bread lover who gained about 10 pounds on my first trip over to France, this is really a plus.

The bread act reserves the words boulanger and boulangerie for those establishments that use raw materials such as flour, water, yeast and salt. They knead their dough, monitor fermentation, shape and bake the bread in the place of sale. It also stipulates that the products used to make bread should at no time be frozen and that the bread in itself should not be frozen at any time. If these rules are not applied, the establishment must write the term dépôt de pain(s) or pain(s) on the exterior of the bakery.

This little piece of trivia might save your taste buds, and your meal. In addition, it could even save you the embarrassment of offering stale and dry tasting bread to your French friends. Yes, I’m not proud, but I have shamefully done this.

So, what is the secret is to making French bread? What do they do to it to make it so crunchy and delicious? Is it possible for nonprofessionals to make decent bread? Could I make French bread? While wondering all of these things, it struck me that I was living in a city full of truly amazing bread. Why would I even want to try to bake my own bread? Yeah, I’m crazy… my dear sweet man and I began testing whether we could come close to baking what might be considered, French bread. That is to say, if any bread could ever be considered French having been made by someone from New York. In doing so, I have eaten more bread than any petite woman should be proud of, but it was a lot of fun trying.

One of our many attempts at making bread. BELLANDA ®

One of our many attempts at making bread… I forgot to slant the knife when slicing the top, so it doesn’t have that pretty flaky layer crunch. Just another excuse to make more bread.
BELLANDA ®

I am not a professional baker, nor do I claim to be. This experiment gave me new-found respect for all of those bakers out there, making bread to feed the mouths of many. After more trial and errors than I can count, using various kinds of flour, proportions and techniques, we I have finally come up with an easy way to make bread. It is as close as we can get to the real thing. In addition, it stays good and fresh for 4-5 days!

In fact, we actually prefer our bread to that of any dépôt de pain(s). I know that this is going to sound crazy coming from someone who lives in France, but after realizing that I had turned more stale bread from uneaten baguettes into breadcrumbs than we could possibly use, we eventually stopped buying all kinds of bread.

We make bread about once a week (1 kilo of flour), that is unless my French in-laws are here. Then, we need to make it almost daily. Apparently, it is our fault, we are told. They just keep saying, “We can’t stop eating it!” Coming from my in-laws this is a true complement… both of their fathers were French boulangers!

After their most recent 10 day visit, I decided that opening a boulangerie is out of the question for me. I had a hard time keeping up with their bread appetites and couldn’t even imagine the number of hours it takes to make enough bread to feed such a bread loving country. As easy as our recipe is, I would have no life! Instead, I have decided to share the recipe with all of you. Depending on where you live and on your tastes, you will need to adapt the ingredients to your liking. For those of you who live in the USA, this might be a challenge due to the lack of flour varieties. Before I moved to France, I thought there was only one kind of all-purpose flour… silly me! Apparently, there are many different kinds. If you do manage to make the recipe work over there, please let people know how you did it in the comments section of the blog.

Let’s get started! Believe it or not, you don’t need many ingredients to make delicious bread.

Ingredients: Flour, Fresh Bread Yeast, Water, Flour BELLANDA ®

Ingredients: Bread Flour, Fresh Bread Yeast, Water, Salt, Flour
BELLANDA ®

For those of you who have been waiting for this recipe, I’m so sorry for the delay. I hope that the wait will be well worth it.

UPDATE:

Due to a “Nouvelle Recette” (New Recipe) for the brand of flour we used in our original recipe, we have made changes to our recipe. We now use 1/2 a kilo of flour Type-65 and 1/2 kilo of flour Type-80. This has gotten us as close to our original finished product as possible. If you find something that works better, please don’t hesitate to mention the flour in the comments section, and we will give it a try.

Ingredients for original recipe:

1 kilo of flour – ( 1/2 a kilo of flour Type-65 and 1/2 kilo of flour Type-80 )

625 grams of warm water

25 grams of Fresh Bread Yeast (I buy GB Extra Duo Cubes 2 x 25 g ) No, they are also not paying me to write about them. 😉

14 – 16 grams of salt (to your liking)

We use a mixer with a hook and carefully place the ingredients in a certain order. I am sure you can do this your own way, or even mix it by hand, but now that we found this to work best, we try to do it the same each time.

  • Add half of the water into the bowl. Then, add the 25 grams of Fresh Bread Yeast broken up into pieces into the warm water.
  • Add half of the flour on top of the water/yeast mixture.
  • Add the rest of the water, followed by the rest of the flour.
  • Lastly, add the salt (Be sure not to let the salt get in contact with the yeast)
Mix Ingredients BELLANDA ®

Mix Ingredients
BELLANDA ®

  • Mix ingredients until the flour mixture comes completely off of the sides of the bowl.
Mix ingredients until the flour mixture comes completely off of the sides of the bowl. Bellanda ®

Mix ingredients until the flour mixture comes completely off of the sides of the bowl.
Bellanda ®

  • Remove dough from hook. Cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and let sit in the bowl for about 30-40 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.
Bread Dough Should Double in Size after around 30-40 minutes. Bellanda ®

Bread Dough Should Double in Size after around 30-40 minutes in a bowl covered in plastic.
Bellanda ®

  • Remove dough from bowl and knead with a little extra flour on the counter, pushing the air out.
  • Form dough into desired shape or shapes. You can make one very large loaf or divide it up as you would like.
  • Place on wax paper and cover with a cloth.
  • Let rise for another 20-30 minutes.
  • Warm oven to 240°C Bake  // 460°F  Bake – Place a water recipient in the oven. You can put the water in at this moment or  wait until your dough is ready for baking (we wait until we put bread dough in oven). The water will help give the bread that crispy exterior/moist interior that French bread is famous for.
Various Bread Forms and  Bellanda ®

A Couple of the Many Bread Forms you can make and Tools Bellanda ®

  • Slice the bread in a slanted, sideways motion.
  • You may want to use a spray bottle to mist a little water on the surface of the dough before popping it into the oven.
  • Promptly place the dough into the oven (on the same wax paper you used when making the dough rise).
  • Immediately lower the temperature to 220°C // 430°F
  • Bake for around 20-25 minutes, or until desired coloring of the bread.
  • Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.
Fresh bread hot out of the oven! Bellanda ®

Freshly baked bread, hot out of the oven!
Bellanda ®

Sit back and enjoy the smell of freshly baked bread wafting throughout your kitchen. Your ears will also get a treat from the wonderful crackling sound the bread makes when removed from the oven. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Total bread addiction! Bellanda ®

Total bread addiction!
Bellanda ®

 ENJOY!

Bellanda at International Women’s Day Party

IMPORTANT UPDATE

There has been a HUGE GLITCH in tomorrow evening’s Art Expo at The International Women’s Day Event. There was a last-minute problem with the venue & the Event organizers had to scramble around to find a new venue last night. Unfortunately, the new venue is not conducive to hosting an art expo.
***I will still be there, but without my paintings. Please join me for drinks at the new venue. It would be great to get together.
NEW VENUE: Bastille, FLAG CAFE.
http://buff.ly/1dlb3LG

For those of you who are looking for something to do this Friday, please join me as I put on one of my many “hats” – that of the artist. I’d love to see you there.

Atelier Bellanda: Oil Paintings, Photography & Mixed Media

BELLANDA EXPO PROMO

Please join me, my paintings & more at the International Women’s Day Party!

For more information/free registration, please click here:

http://buff.ly/1dlb3LG

***I will post photos in the very near future for those of you who are unable to make it to the event.

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Returning to the Source: Starting Anew

Returning to the Source: Starting Anew...  Bellanda ®

Returning to the Source:
Starting Anew…
Bellanda ®

There is something about starting a new year that makes many evaluate the year that has just gone by. Over the last few weeks, I have heard and read an overwhelming amount of information about starting anew, broken promises, hopes, dreams, and about updating last year’s resolutions. Our eight year old, who happens to live a rather blessed life filled with love and activities of his choosing, cried on New Year’s Eve as he said, “I haven’t profited enough from 2013.”

I realize that a reflection like this is unusual for a boy his age, but he has touched upon something that many adults feel and express at the end of each new year and around birthdays. I’ve never quite understood this. Are these kind of reflections due to fear of the unknown? Regrets of the past? Hopes for a better future? Or is it something more… something more profound about man’s inability to feel truly happy? Could it be that man is driven by a desire for better and for more? If this is the case, what would happen if man was given all of time they desired? Would they finally be happy?

It is wonderful to take time at the start of a new year to evaluate the lives presently being lived, but I can’t help but wonder why so many people wait until this time of the year to awaken only to get lost again so quickly. We are given the gift of life, and with each breath the capacity to make things happen. If you are one of the lucky ones, born into a place where choice is an option and your gender, skin color or political and cultural affiliation don’t limit you to a stand still, then you are indeed blessed. You are the master of your future, if you choose to be so.

Perhaps if we stopped running around, trying to do everything, and started enjoying the simple moments we would realize how lucky we are. I know that this is more of a lifetime resolution than a New Year’s resolution, but it is also one that will help us feel more fulfilled in life. Finding something in each day that makes you smile, like a child’s laughter or taking the time to sip your favorite coffee instead of gulping it down while doing a million things at the same time takes no more than a couple of minutes, but the benefits are endless.

We are the masters of own little universe, whether we believe it or not, so we don’t have to wait for these precious moments to happen. We can make them happen by simply smiling at a stranger, or holding the door for them and wishing them a nice day. Naive? Maybe, but it is enough to bring someone else a gift and in doing so we are often rewarded by this exchange. 

I’ve been told on many occasions that I am lucky to live here in Paris, and that I should be happy. I agree that this is indeed a wonderful city, but being happy is more than just living in a particular place. It is about taking time for those you love and care about and about making choices that best meet your needs and passions intelligently. It is about taking the time to enjoy precious moments in between the rest of the things that need to get done. Most importantly, it is about finding positives in the midst of the roller coaster life so many of us live.

As some of you already know, I have been ill for almost two years. From my many activities, you might also know that I haven’t let this make me bitter or stop me completely. I’m often asked how I remain so positive in the midst of hospitals, doctors, treatments and the unknown, as I await what has been a very long and complicated final diagnosis. My answer is always, “never giving up on hope.” There comes a time when one must accept their limitations and then find a way to adapt so that you can do what you would like to do regardless of them. Accepting one’s imperfections while learning from our mistakes and the things we cannot control also helps. It is important to realize that by wasting energy on negativity and anger we only hurt ourselves, wasting precious time that could be used for something good.

At times I have had to slow down, but I’ve always searched to find a positive in each situation… even if I’ve had to dig a little deeper. Everything is about choice. Being forced to take time to slow down for health reasons, can mean cuddling on the couch with my little ones as they tell me about their day. When we think about it, as long as we are alive, there is hope and a chance to find a positive. Yes, death is something we all struggle with, but once the immediate shock and pain of the loss of a loved one has passed, it is possible to turn and focus your energy on feeling blessed to have had that person in your life, even if only for a short time during their passage here on earth. In doing so, they will live on in us and in our memories forever as you take that person with you.

All of this will help us deal with our own inevitable death. Living life’s precious moments, telling those you love how you feel so in the end our regrets are limited. The feeling that we have indeed profited from life and our loved ones is primordial.

As each new year comes around, I smile. I know that I am among the fortunate and I am thankful. I have lived another day, let alone another year. I am not sad, nor afraid of each year that passes. Yes, I am another year older, and wrinkles do come with age, but oh how lucky I am to have the chance that so many don’t get. Age is not a curse but a gift, and I’d rather avoid the alternative as long as possible. Once you get the hang of finding something positive in your everyday life and in negative situations that come your way, you’d be amazed how easy it is to do.

So, if I must make a resolution, it will be to continue doing what I am doing… mistakes and all. They are what make us learn and grow. I will continue sharing this positive attitude with those I love in hopes that they might pick up this trait. When my time does eventually come, as it will with us all, I will have no regrets. I will have lived my life as best I could, making sure that those I love know how very precious they are to me.