20 Sept 2013

Postcard from the Pays Basque | Six spots to visit

I'm back to tell you more about the Pays Basque, and for this second and final post, I'm sharing with you the six places I liked the most during the holiday, as well as some more photos of the region. Hope you enjoy!

La Rhune
On our first day in the Pays Basque, we hiked up a mountain. A small mountain, alright, but still. We don't hike in the family, ever. Turns out it was really fun (at least for me, less so for my very much afraid of heights brother and my "oh my God this was a terrible idea" mother), and I felt incredibly proud when reaching the top! Just remember to bring a bottle of water PER PERSON (right mum?) and wear good shoes.
For non-crazy people, there is an old train going up and down the mountain. From the top, you can see all of the valley, with the Pyrenees on one side and the sea on the other... well, that's if it's sunny. By the time we got to the top, it was so foggy you could barely see 5 metres ahead of you! A must-do in the area.


Spa Makila
This holiday was originally my parents and brother's golf holiday, and I decided to tag along on the promise of beach afternoons while they golfed... and a Spa day! One of the golf they picked had a Spa so I got to do a hammam/sauna/jacuzzi session (possibly the best 45 minutes of my life) followed by an an hour and a half long face and body massage + treatment (definitely the best 45+ minutes of my life.) If you're ever in the area, I'd definitely recommend it. The place is lovely with a great view on the golf courses from the jacuzzi, and the treatment left my skin at its very best. I don't know if it's related or not, but for the first time in my life, I came home after a holiday with a tan...

Saint-Jean-de-Luz botanical gardens
After walking around the market and the town centre = doing the typical touristey things in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, we opted for something a bit different. We headed for the botanical gardens, which turned out to be a fantastic choice! The gardens are beautiful, peaceful and quiet, full of plants unknown to the public... and it has a beautiful view upon the ocean. A refreshing oasis away from the busyness of summer holidays!


La Plancha d'Ilbarritz
I mentioned this restaurant already in the previous blog post because it was AMAZING. We chose this place on a recommendation from our host at the guest house and the whole family agreed it was like, the best decision ever. The restaurant is by the seaside, directly overlooking the bay, making it super popular to tourists and locals alike. No reservations, so v busy, but there is a nice outdoors bar with cocktails (A+ frozen margarita!) to help you wait. And then you feast. Plancha grilling is obviously this place's speciality, so you'll get to try piquillos (small peppers), chipirons (baby squid), chorizo, rib steaks and all kinds of fish grilled a la plancha. I'll say this again: best fish EVER. It had garlic crisps, man, garlic crisps! Stereotypically French maybe, but what can I say, I do love garlic.

La Plancha d'Ilbarritz, Bidart

Another fantastic restaurant, this one being the best we found to try typical local recipes and products in a traditional setting; plus, it was in Espelette, a town nationally famous as it is where they grow the Espelette pepper. The staff was über friendly, the menu had no end, but mostly the dishes were flavoursome and generous, and I felt that this was the place we visited the most representative of the Pays Basque. Not high end cuisine, but hearty and moreish!


Biarritz fireworks
Finally, I have to mention the "Nuit Féérique" fireworks in Biarritz. August 15 is a national holiday in France and most towns traditionally celebrate with fireworks of some sort. Biarritz's have the reputation to be exceptional, and they were! If you ever have the opportunity to see them, definitely go and get stunned by the beautiful spectacle of the fireworks blowing up on both side of the bay and illuminating the Grande Plage. Splendid!

Aaaan this concludes my postcard from the Pays Basque! I hope you enjoyed this little trip in South-Western France and that I made you think about planning a trip to see its beautiful sights. I'm now back in London, and after a summer of travelling... I just want to leave again! 

7 Sept 2013

SC#32 | Couscous salad stuffed aubergine

Four months to the day since the last recipe posted on this blog, are you kidding me. It is true I haven't been in the kitchen much over the summer. I was away quite a bit, ate out quite a bit, and when I cooked it was rarely anything exceptional. I did whip up my favourite cake at some point for the man... but it was eaten too fast for photos.

So here we are, it's September, summer is over and my diet is full of veg in an attempt to get rid of what comes with a holiday in Italy: pizza-shaped hips. I've thus been eating a lot of tomato salads and tomato soup (turns out you can buy a LOT of tomatoes for £1 at the market) and other veg-ariations... Get it? Get it?! 

... Right, I'm out, but here's a tasty veg-ariation ;)

Couscous salad stuffed aubergine, serves 2
- 1 aubergine
- 2 small tomatoes
- 1 tbsp dry couscous (Ok I totally didn't measure that. Just adapt it to the size of your aubergine. Also you can make more couscous and just save it for another recipe. Couscous is GREAT.)
- Half an onion
- 2-3 tsp French mustard
- Cajun spice
- Salt, pepper

Preheat the oven on 180°C. Get your couscous ready by placing it into a bowl, covering with boiling water and letting to rest covered with a tea towel.

Rinse the aubergine, cut off the top, halve and carve into boats. Make ridges into the flesh to facilitate baking.

Chop up the onion and tomatoes, mix in with the couscous, and add mustard, Cajun spice and seasoning to your liking. It's difficult to precise how much; I like my stuff really mustardy but some of my friends enjoy the idea of mustard more than the actual thing... 

Fill the aubergine with the salad and cook 20 to 25 minutes.

This would be nice with some feta crumbs and sundried tomatoes as well. Whatever you choose, I hope you enjoy it!

1 Sept 2013

DIY | iPhone cases

Since living in London I've enjoyed trying to customise bits and bobs around my room/house to make it a little bit more 'me.' After paintings tons of jars and stools and sticking masking tape all over my room, I decided to give my phone its own little makeover. I used ideas from A Beautiful Mess — only the greatest blog on the Internet, by the way — bought clear cases off eBay for £2 each and got crafty!

For this first one, I used mint coloured masking tape and stuck it to the bottom of the case. The tricky part is to make it straight: for this I stuck a piece of tape on my desk and positioned my case so that it would serve as a 'space mark' in between two stripes on the case. The tricky bit is the corners: have a pen, a ruler or any other tool at hand to help you stick the tape to the corners. Then I painted two coats f gold paint over it and sealed it with clear nail polish.

This one was directly inspired by ABM! I painted stripes of nail polish (between one and three layers depending on the colour) letting it try inbetween, and sealed it with clear nail polish. This one had to be left to dry a couple days so the polish wouldn't stain my phone. 

It was super cheap since I already had everything and now I get to change cases often. I have some more cases left though, if you have any ideas on how to DIY them next, please let me know in the comments!

And don't forget to like my blog on Facebook! If you enjoy reading it, it only takes a second and it'd mean a lot to me :)

Thanks to Courtney for being a cutie and helping me photograph this post!