Surviving Patisserie School–Life in a French village Part 2

‘Surviving Patisserie School–Life in a French village Part 2’ was first published on, September 2, 2015

This is becoming like a ‘Rough Guides’ to Yssingeaux! Here is some more information about life in the village because, as you’ve probably guessed by now, it’s virtually impossible for me to write a paragraph about something, I have to write an essay…why did I ever think that a blog was a good idea? Maybe I should just write that book that people are always telling me to write, but then knowing me, I would end up like Douglas Adams and write a trilogy of five books


Restaurants/bars/cafes etc

There are lots of places to eat, drink and be merry in the village when you’re not hard at work at Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie, as you’ll find out. However, just to give you an idea of what’s in town I’ll tell you about a few places. You have to keep an eye on opening times because everything closes early, except for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Most places are in the centre-ville and there are many options around Place du Maréchal Foch. There are a couple of more formal places, but generally I just wanted to take it easy when I went out after classes so I didn’t check them out, though I kept meaning to! Here are a few of the more casual places, oh and there’s always McDonald’s near SuperU if you can be bothered walking to it!

The Kebab House
Place du Maréchal Foch, 43200 Yssingeaux
Let’s start with the most chilled. The Kebab House owner/operator is very nice, the kebabs are pretty good and sometimes it’s the only thing actually open in the village—take a loyalty card.

7 Avenue de la Marne, 43200 Yssingeaux
The other option for being open when everything else is closed is the amusingly named L’Open. It claims to be a pizza restaurant, but honestly, the pizza tastes like it’s freezer-pizza, so try the other things on the menu which are good. It’s also a big place, so there’s usually room.

Le Flo
8 Boulevard Saint-Pierre, 43200 Yssingeaux
They staff are very friendly, food is nice and it’s tucked away in a corner behind a mural so it’s sometimes has room when everything else is full. I always found the chef and staff friendly and up for a chat, but it can close if there’s not much business.

La Comedia
32 Rue du Maréchal Fayolle, 43200 Yssingeaux
It probably has the best pizza in the village and a nice atmosphere.

Le San Jordi
1 Boulevard Saint-Pierre, 43200 Yssingeaux
I didn’t even know the name of this place until I just looked it up because I just called it the ‘Sandwicherie’ which is says on the sign and is may be a play on words! It’s very ‘budget friendly’, but the food is ok and the portions are huge…frites, frites, frites. They also have a loyalty card and the people are nice.

There are several bars and cafes in town, but as usual check the opening times! Most of the places are along Place du Maréchal Foch and there are some I’m not mentioning because I can’t remember their names! Here are a few options:

Cine Lux
5 Rue Blanc, 43200 Yssingeaux
This is a small bar in the centre, but I just checked and it says it’s permanently closed, so check out if it’s still there or not because it was in March 2015! It’s pretty much opposite the Kebab House in town. It somehow ended up with the nickname ‘the pirate bar’.

Bar Lupa
Place du Maréchal Foch, 43200 Yssingeaux
This bar has a great selection of beers, especially Belgian beers. It gets pretty busy, but isn’t too bad. I seem to remember there was a bit of a ‘locker room’ theme going on in the back…

Central Bar
Place du Maréchal Foch, Yssingeaux, Auvergne
Central Bar does good coffee and has a wide selection of drinks. The owners are really friendly, welcoming and will let you practice your French! When the weather is warmer, they expand across the road and the centre is filled with people relaxing and chatting in the sun.

Les Gourmand’Yss
20 Place Carnot, 43200 Yssingeaux
When I was there 2014/2015 it was a cafe/bar, but their blog looks like it used to sell regional foods. However, the people who have it now are really friendly, speak some English, make good drinks and play retro music—love it.

Bar a Boss
Place de la Victoire, Yssingeaux, Auvergne
I walked by it all the time, but I never went…they always played sports on the big screen.

There are further options if you wander for 15-20minutes down Avenue du Huit Mai 1945/D988 to Planète Bowling where there’s a bar, karaoke, bowling, pool tables (billiards) and other games as well as a pizzeria, but I never actually sampled the food. Beyond the bowling there’s a big bar/restaurant called Le Canne a Sucs and they do a fine burger, and then the infamous Kripton nightclub…which is really just another nightclub, but fun if you want to dance…

Planète Bowling
Lieu-Dit la Guide, 43200 Yssingeaux

Brasserie la Canne A Sucs
ZI la Guide, 43200 Yssingeaux

The Kripton
ZI la Guide, 43200 Yssingeaux

There is a lot of walking to be done in and around the village and the best thing to do is just get out on a lovely day and wander. There are often beautiful sunrises/sunsets so take the time to climb one of the hills to see. One walk that I did often with my dog was to climb the hill with the cross on it. This is what I usually did:

Walk along Avenue de la Marne as if you were going out of town.
Turn right into Avenue Mal de Vaux.
Turn right onto Rue Louis Jouvet and then head up the hill. It can get a bit steep, so watch out in the snow! Once at the top, there’s a lovely panoramic view over the village, the chateau school and beyond.
Try going down on the opposite side of the hill and come out on Rue Jean de Bourbon. Follow that around and turn right onto Chemin de Saint-Roch then turn left when you come to Rue Saint-Roch et voilà! You’ll be back in the centre of the village!

Another nice good walk was to go up the hill behind the school—a really lovely walk amid the trees! It’s probably a good idea to try it when it’s dry because there seem to be a lot of heavy vehicles that go up there.  It’s also possible to walk along La Siaulme, the little river that you cross when walking or driving to the school.

The school organised my place for me just outside the centre circle of the village and I was lucky enough to have an apartment on my own. If you end up with the apartment on Rue de l’Éternité, then you’ll be in my old digs! And you can benefit from me having cleaned the walls of that place because, let me tell you, it was a little grey when I moved in… It’s a basic, older style apartment, but it does the job for five months and, as someone who saw a lot of interesting student housing situations when studying her undergraduate degrees, this place was heaven in comparison! Here are a few tips about the place.

If the neighbours on the first floor are still the same ones as when I was there—I’m assuming they are—they’re the type of French people who adhere very strongly to the ‘no noise after 22h’ rule. I found this out when I left the apartment with some people at 22:30 one night and laughed and then found a “make no noise after 22h” Google translated sign on the door the next morning. It became a bit of a joke, even with the landlord of my apartment who laughed and said I should only tip-toe around the apartment. Speaking of noise: I hope you have some ear plugs as there is a ‘water hammer’ issue in the bathroom which is next to the bedroom and will wake you up every time the aforementioned neighbours use a tap until you get used to it! Hmm what else…oh if you’re there in the winter, you’ll have to keep the heaters on low all day otherwise you’ll freeze and note how the temperature changes as you ascended or descended the steep stairs! ..oh yeah, the stairs! Have fun with those!
The best thing about the apartment was the view from the kitchen and lounge room over the village and to the hills in the distance when the sun was setting…lovely!

Most of the other apartments the students had were  of a similar or better quality, although sizes varied. Everyone had internet access, heating and cooking facilities and most had a washing machine and really, it’s only five months and most of the time you’ll be cooking up a storm at school!

So that’s enough rambling for now. I hope it’s helpful! Enjoy your time in Yssingeaux if you decide to take a course at ENSP.

Surviving Patisserie School–Life in a French village Part 1

‘Surviving Patisserie School–Life in a French village Part 1’ was first published on, September 1, 2015

I’m going to write some posts I actually meant to write while I was still at school or just after I’d finished, but I never got around to doing it. Now it suddenly dawned on me that in a few short weeks it will be one whole year since I left for Yssingeaux to start at Ecole National Supérieur de la Patisserie (ENSP).

I want to tell you about what there is in Yssingeaux. When I was researching I had a lot of decisions to make. Should I go to an international school or should I try my luck at the local school and do a CAP in French? Should I go to Paris, Rouen or Yssingeaux? I tried researching ENSP and only found a few blog posts and a little information in English. Most of the information I found was about the day-to-day course activities and what people made during class, but I wanted to know what it would be like to live in a small village in the middle of France for five months. What was there, what would I have to do while I was there, would I be bored, would it be ok without a car, could I get in and out easily? I like to be prepared! So here, for people researching, let me tell you a little about it: what the village is like, what is available, how to get in and out and more from my perspective.

Yssingeaux, Auvergne, France
Pronunciation is something like: Ey-sen-jzew

Yssingeaux is a pretty village of about 6000-7000 people in the Auvergne region of France. It has all the things you’ll need for day-to-day living: shops, pharmacies, post office, hairdressers, doctors, gym etc. If you have a car it’ll be great because the surrounding countryside is lovely and is good to explore! The people are generally friendly and you shouldn’t be worried about being a foreigner in the centre of France because in such a small town it’s obvious that you’re from the international program and the locals will welcome you.

If you are a French Pastry Arts student you will be living in the village which is convenient for life outside school (unless the school has organised accommodation closer to their facilities or on site!). It’s roughly a 15-minute walk from the village to the school, depending on where you live. Once you leave the centre-ville to walk toward the school along Rue Alsace Lorraine there are no shops, so you have to take your lunch etc with you. There’s no public transport in the village, either, so pack your comfy shoes and remember that you’ll be walking off all the goodness you make and eat in class!

To and from the village
Yssingeaux is kind of in the middle of nowhere. If you don’t have a car, it may seem isolating, but it’s not really. There are a few options for transport to and from the village.

The closest train station is at Retournac which is about 13kms and 20-30mins by car from Yssingeaux. You can take a taxi from the village to the train station for anywhere up to €30, depending on the time of day. Best thing to do is to split the fare with others going to the station.

If you’re like me and you prefer to be more independent, you can catch the bus straight from the Yssingeaux to other villages, to Le Puy-en-Velay (highly recommend a visit) or to Saint-Étienne. Once in Saint-Étienne, you can pick up trains to Lyon and many other places. It’s also more direct, scenic, hassle-free and I think it’s cheaper than taking the train. You can buy tickets on the bus and don’t worry about missing the stop on the way back because it stops in Yssingeaux for some time before continuing. Oh and the bus stop is right near the Lidl supermarket!

On this link to the Haute-Loire Department website, you can see the No.30 Le Puy en Velay–Le Pertuis–Yssingeaux–Saint Etienne line which is the bus that goes to Saint-Étienne Chateaucreux, the main station in Saint-Étienne. The only problem is that it only goes there once a day at 15:35 in the afternoon; however, many others go to Saint-Étienne-Bellevue, where you can also pick up trains to Lyon etc.

Practical things
There are two main supermarkets, two discount supermarkets and a mini-supermarket in the centre, which conveniently closes for lunch until about 15:30…I don’t think any of them are open on Sunday, except for the mini-supermarket, that could be open. The larger ones are on the other side of the village to the school, so it can be a fair hike to get to them, depending on where you stay in the village, but it’s not too bad.

Tip: if you’re in the winter group, have a few supplies in case it snows and after class it’s too much effort to go shopping!

Intermarché—Medium sized, normal supermarket
Route de Retournac, 43200 Yssingeaux
Open Monday–Saturday 08:30–19:30

Super U—Big supermarket/department store
Villeneuve, 43200 Yssingeaux
Open Monday–Saturday 08:30–19:30

Lidl —Discount supermarket—you won’t be able to do all your shopping here, but they have most things.
Chemin de la Galoche, 43200 YSSINGEAUX
Open Monday–Saturday 08:30–19:30

Aldi—Another discount supermarket like Lidl. The kind of place you walk into intending to buy milk and walk out with a bag of chips, a woolly jumper and a cactus.
Rue du 19 Mars 1962, 43200 Yssingeaux
Open Monday–Saturday 09:00–19:00

There’s a good fruit and veggie shop where the people are really friendly; I bought a lot of my fresh items there. They also have some dairy products and a cheese section. It’s behind the massive Catholic Church in the centre of the village.

Sami Fruits
18 Place du Prieuré, 43200 Yssingeaux

Each Thursday morning there is a street market which winds around the centre-ville. It has a good range of fruits, veggies, breads, meat, fish, cheese, some clothes and more, depending on the time of year. Plus it has an ‘animal section’ on Place de la Victoire, next to the Médiathèque La Grenette, where they have live chickens, geese and rabbits ready for dinner…?!

Opposite Intermarché is a wonderful little shop which sells local products and has some great things to try: meats, cheeses, yoghurts, fruit, drinks etc. I was especially fond of the ham…proper ham off the bone…oh my, so good.

There are also several patisserie/boulangeries, which you may not think you’ll need, but fresh bread is always good! There are several independents, but there are also two outlets of Ronde des Pains boulangeries in town: one opposite Intermarché and the other in the centre, on Avenue de la Marne. The latter was near where I stayed and it was so nice to have the fragrance of baking bread waft by my nostrils as I stepped out door to leave for school at five in the morning. Mmm-ahh…

There are three pharmacies in the centre-ville, they all close at lunch-time and I don’t think they’re open on Mondays…
Tip: always have some Band-aids (or equivalent) on hand because you know at some stage in the course you’re going to cut or burn yourself or have a blister from whisking something.

Aside from that there are the usual banks, a post office, gift shops, newsagents, clothes shops, hairdressers and dentists that you’d expect to find in small town. I had a decent haircut at Julie B, 2 Avenue de la Marne, 43200 Yssingeaux. Oh, but whatever you do, even if your tooth is stuck to a piece of nougat from confectionery week, DO NOT go to the dentist near the florist on Boulevard Saint-Pierre unless you want root canal work performed on you without your knowledge while the dentist swears into your mouth and you wonder how much damage he will do with the drill if you escape from the chair as he yells ‘p****n!’ into your open mouth one more time…