Tag Archives: Catholicism

Problem of Travelling

I think the problem of travelling is easily explained: the more you travel, the more you want. And the more you experience, the more you realize that the list of places to visit is endless. Furthermore, you want to experience new destinations, but eventually you also want to return to places you already know because your experience piles up and you want to see how you would now feel about an X place. See what I mean?

Yesterday I was emptying some of my memory cards and saw the photos I took in Varanasi. Even if the place is so obscure to say the least, I would like to return there. After all, I am not much wiser today than I was when I wrote Purpose of Varanasi, and to me this alone is a sign of “unfinished business, an urgency to go back to figure something out”. Places with a soul tend to have that effect…

Today I was on a more cheerful mood so I started missing Southern France. Avignon where the Popes lived for a short period, gypsy town Saintes-Maries de la Mer, world-famous Saint Tropez and charming Menton. I have done these places several times and what a road trip that is! South of France, NiceIt is likely that I will travel next week, so in overall, I am not doing so badly. But I would not say no to hopping on a TGV train tomorrow for a weekend trip either!

What about you? Toward the end of each trip, do you start to have that itching feeling of rushing home, or do you secretly (or openly) wish you could continue forever?


King Cake traditions

Yesterday we were invited to eat Galette des Rois and cheer the new year with Canard-Duchêne roséchampagne at my husband’s family. The hosts had ordered this huge cake from a famous bakery and it came with kings’ and queens’ crowns. It had lots of marzipan, so I was a very happy guest!galette des rois

Following the tradition, the youngest child of the family placed herself under the table and informed the person in charge of cutting the cake who gets which slice. This is particularly important because there is a trinket, la fève, inside the cake that everyone wants to have (but as our cake was so big, there were several trinkets inside). The tradition also says that whoever get the trinket will become the king or the queen, hence crowned. 

a trinket of the king cake

In a religious sense, the cake is said to “draw the kings” to the Epiphany. Remember, those kings; wise men who visited Jesus in Bethlehem on the 12th day of Christmas? Today, there are slight variations of the King Cake tradition across the world and even the trinket is not always baked inside the cake for the safety reasons. But if you are traveling in the Catholic world around this time of the year, check out the local bakery to see if they offer the King Cake! 

Merry Christmas!!

midnight mass at Notre DameWith this photo taken at the midnight mass at Notre Dame de Paris, I wish my dear family, friends and followers a merry Christmas!!

White Finnish Christmas

I do like celebrating Christmas in Finland, especially during those years when there is a lot of snow, but I do not need to go back there every year. I am not one of those people who follows all Christmas traditions. I do not even like most of the traditional Finnish Christmas dishes. I have spent many Christmases abroad and to be honest, one of my most memorable Christmases was in Mamallapuram, India (eating lamb chops!). Quite a traitor, some of you are thinking now…

This year we are going to celebrate Christmas with my parents in Paris. The preparations are yet to be completed, but on the 24th we are invited to a birthday party/Russian Christmas Eve buffet at a friend’s place. After smoked salmon and champagne, our night will probably continue to the midnight mass at Notre Dame. Sounds like an other excellent way to start the celebrations to me!

However, to pay respect to the Finnish Christmas and to show you how it looks like, I thought to share some old photos from where my parents live. In this first photo, you can see my father preparing a path for ice skating (yes, he is walking on a frozen river!).Finland at Christmas time

This next photo shows you the house from the river. There is a very little of light around the Christmas period, but often a nice blue light appears just before the sun sets.. frozen lake in Finland

In this last photo you can see a huge pile of snow that we accumulated by keeping the ice path free of snow. We thought of constructing an igloo of it but the time run out! snow in Finland

If I get a permission from the people involved, I will post more photos of Christmas in Finland and especially of what jumping half-naked to the frozen river or lake means…! Meanwhile, what does your Christmas usually look like? Which has been your most memorable Christmas?

Religious procession at Notre-Dame de Paris

If you are in Paris on August 14, the eve of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption into heaven, you may want to head toward Notre-Dame de Paris. An interesting procession takes place near this world-famous cathedral, and even if you are not Catholic (I am not), I strongly recommend participating in it. Notre-Dame de ParisI am not sure if the schedule is same every year, but this year the procession begun around 7.30 pm (there was a mass before). We arrived some ten minutes late, and the procession had begun. This meant that there were huge crowds of people. We begun running (hint: do not wear heels) toward the Left Bank, the southern side of the river, and turned toward Quai de la Tournelle.Assumption procession ParisI only had my pocket camera with me, and having thousands of people around me did not help to improve the photo quality. We tried to stay in front of the procession, and if your plan is to take photos, I recommend doing the same. Procession Notre DameIMG_4572Procession Notre DameProcession Notre DameThe evening was beautiful and the more we advanced, the more the sun light became colorful.Assumption of the Virgin Mary in ParisEventually, maybe after one hour, we reached Pont de Sully (Sully Bridge). A few steps later, there was a boat waiting for the procession (at Quai Saint-Bernard). Procession fluvialeProcession fluvialeAssumption of the Virgin MaryThe Virgin Mary statue was carried into the boat and the fluvial part of the procession was about to begun. This is when we left and repositioned ourselves on the Sully Bridge. It took quite a long time for the boat to embark. According to information we gathered from organizers and read on internet, the boat was going to go around the islands of Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité. Virgin Mary statueThese last photos were taken after the sun set but I think they provide you with a feeling of the fluvial procession. fluviale processionfluvial procession, ParisI was happy to observe this procession, and should you want to do the same in future, check these websites for information:

Notre-Dame: http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/ (the Cathedral also has a Facebook page)

Catholic church in Paris: http://www.paris.catholique.fr/fete-de-l-assomption-a-notre-dame.html

PS If you are on Facebook, do not forget to check out and like Pearlspotting ‘s fairly new page!

Wine tasting at Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants

Vignerons Indépendants (http://www.vigneron-independant.com/) is a network of independent winemakers who are present in France through eleven regional federations. Their aim is to produce authentic wine with personality and the process that brings the winemakers to this result is protected by a Charter of thirteen principles. To show a potential consumer that this is serious business that gives a guarantee of quality, the network puts its logo on each bottle they produce. Vignerons Indépendants logoFor example, we buy wine in Paris at our caviste who is specialized in the wines of independent winemakers, but if we need to buy wine elsewhere, we try to look for bottles with this logo as it most probably increases our satisfaction level (and contributes to the sustainable development of viticulture).

We had been offered complimentary tickets to visit Le Salon des Vignerons Indépendants (http://www.vigneron-independant.com/auxsalons/), so there was no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than head to the Northwestern part of Paris, Porte de Champerret. As soon as we walked in, I was reminded of how fun it is to talk with people who truly love what they do. Moreover, I think working so closely together with the nature, whether animals or plants, gives a person some perspective and makes him often humble…. Of course, amongst 1,000 winemakers present in the Salon, we also met those who did not bother presenting their products, but in general we met lovely and friendly wine producers. In fact, if you read the Charter, you see that an independent winemaker should respect his customers and be someone who “is happy to welcome you, to give you advice about wine tasting and introduce you his production“.Domaine Les Luquettes, BandolIf you stopped reading after “1,000 winemakers” and are now worrying about how to navigate through so many producers from eleven different regions, do not worry. It can be overwhelming but the best thing you can do is to remember enjoy it. There is (almost) nothing worse than a wine snob who doesn’t know much but pretends to know it all! Our idea was to choose approximately ten stands, and maintain a healthy balance of visiting wine producers we really like (that we want to buy from) and visiting new ones (trying to learn more). I am hereby presenting three winemakers whose wine we tasted, liked and bought, but I know there are many other excellent wines out there!Vignobles Mousset-Barrot, Châteauneuf-du-Pape1. Vignobles Mousset-Barrot, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (AOC) & Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages (AOC)

Vignobles Mousset-Barrot (http://www.vmb.fr/) is a family business that has vines growing around three château in the southern Rhone Valley of France. Grapes that grow near Château des Fines Roches and Château Jas de Bressy make red and white wine and fall under the appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC. Château du Bois de la Garde produces all three colors but in terms of the appellation we are no longer longer talking about Châteauneuf-du-pape but Vin de pays de Méditerranée, Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages.Vignobles Mousset-BarrotA common factor between all of these wines is that they grow around Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is not only a world-famous appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) but also a small town near Avignon. Its history is intertwined with the Popes: in the 14th century the Popes temporarily lived in Avignon and were big supporters of the wine produced in the region.

We were particularly interested in AOC Châteauneuf-du-pape Château des Fines Roches, because a few summers ago we had a superb lunch at this château (www. chateaufinesroches.com) that overlooks the vineyards.Chateau ddes Fines RochesAfter a pleasant tasting of several reds, we ended up buying a 16.50€ bottle of red from 2010 (http://www.vmb.fr/sites/default/files/FR_roug.pdf) that goes perfectly with saucy game meat, like wild boar or rabbit stew. The next time we are in the region, we will definitely try to stop at Château Jas de Bressy, where the Vignobles Mousset-Barrot wines are stored and sold (http://vmb.fr/en/access-map).

2. Domaine Les Luquettes, Bandol (AOC) & Vin de Pays du Mont Caume (VDP)

From Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhone Valley we moved towards the French Mediterranean and a seaside town called Bandol. We know the region quite well, and many long lunches, and even longer dinners have been enjoyed in that region and in the company of une bouteille de rosé. Moreover, a few years ago we were invited to a wedding in a private island (owned by Paul Ricard) called l’Île de Bendor (www.bendor.com), ovelooking Bandol.  Domaine Les Luquettes, BandolSo when Elisabeth Lafourcade, the owner-manager (propriétaire récoltante) of Domaine Les Luquettes (http://www.les-luquettes.com) smiled at us as we were walking by, we didn’t hesitate to stop at her stand. Before we realized, we were tasting their different wines while listening to a crash course to wine history of the region. We learned that in 600 BC Ionian Greeks from Phocaea planted the first vines in the region. When Romans arrived less than 400 years later, they found vineyards doing very well; so well that the wine was ready to be exported, and this is exactly what the Romans started doing. Originally Bandol was famous for its red, and the rosé came later. Because of its history, geographical location and centuries-old tradition, the Bandol wine has become so special that it was one of the first wines to receive its own appellation (AOC Bandol) in 1941 (http://www.vinsdebandol.com/aoc/decret-du-11-novembre-1941/?lang=en).Domaine Les Luquettes, BandolWine-making history at Domaine Les Luquettes goes back generations; their cellar was built in 1852. Today their two primary appellations are Bandol (AOC) and Mont-Caume (VDP). In 1997 the first bottles of Domaine Les Luquettes were released and today they are exported to Canada and the UK.

Optimists as we are, we decided that the sun will soon start shining in Paris and we can start enjoying our new balcony, so we bought two (rosé) bottles of Vin de Pays du Mont Caume for 6€ per bottle. Now the only thing missing is the temperature to reach at least 15C (and preferably 20C…)!

3. Clos des Augustins, Languedoc Pic Saint Loup (AOC) & Vin de Pays du Val Montferrand (VDP)

At Clos des Augustins (http://www.closdesaugustins.com), located some 20km North of Montpellier, the vines are grown according to organic methods; “reasonable culture” (culture « raisonnable ») as the owners call it. In 2004 they decided to go even further to show their commitment and respect of nature: biodynamic viticulture was introduced.Clos des Augustins, Pic Saint LoupBut what does biodynamic viticulture mean? The father of the biodynamic agriculture is an Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner who suggested that the nature should be seen from a spiritual and philosophical perspective as well. In my own simplistic words, I say that he wanted us to see the nature beyond green leaves and black soil –to realize that there are forces beyond our knowledge and no matter how much medicine we give to a sick plant, it won’t work unless we do it in respect of these spiritual forces living in the nature.

How does this then translate into a wine producer’s daily life? Well, he needs to practice his profession according to the lunar calendar and the alignment of planets. For example, only certain days are good for bottling wine. This may all sound a bit weird especially in the beginning, but biodynamic wines have indeed proven skeptics wrong by doing really well in blind tastings! (useful information can be found here:

http://www.boissetfamilyestates.com/press/FortuneBiodynamics.pdf)wineThe owner, Roger Mezy, offered us to taste all three colors produced by Clos des Augustins. In terms of the appellation, we were now talking about Pic Saint Loup (AOC), Val de Montferrand (VDP) and Coteaux du Languedoc (AOC). Our bags were already very heavy but white wine was something we had not yet bought, so we purchased two bottles of “vin de copains” (something to be drunk with friends): Les Bambins Clos des Augustins, Vin de Pays du Val de Montferrand (2011). We paid 8.50€ per bottle and the bottles are in the fridge waiting for maybe a fish dish, or simply for friends to come over!

PS If you are interested in wine and are planning to come to Paris in the autumn or spring time, try to coincide your visit with one of the wine salons. It really is a lot of fun and provides an excellent way to learn more.  And if you are just driving around France, do not be afraid to stop to buy wine directly from the producers. It is best to call in advance,  but no one says you cannot stop by and ask if this is a good time to visit. Lastly, if you are interested in individual making of things, do not forget to do a little bit of research in order to find the logo of Vignerons Indépendants in the bottles you buy!