Sunday, September 27, 2009

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Paris Part Trois

Our last day in Paris, so sad :-(
While getting our coffee that morning, we had our first experience with the "Paris waiter", except it was a waitress, but either way. We sat down at a café and ordered our coffees and while we were waiting for them to be brought out, an older couple sat at the table next to us (and proceeded to smoke while the wind blew right at us....yuk!) which still happened to be still dirty. The waitress took their order and in a few minutes, came back with their drinks, at which time, all hell broke loose. The man next to us (of course, this is all in French, therefore, our translation is mainly speculation) said something to the waitress about needing to clear the table before giving them their drinks which escalated into an all-out yelling match between the waitress and the man (something that would never be tolerated in the US's "customer is always right" restaurant industry) with the waitress making the argument that they could have sat at any of the clean tables while the man got angrier and angrier. Eventually, what seemed like a manager or head-waiter came by and tried to calm everything down but by this time, the customer was livid and said to his wife, "let's go". The waitress was in tears while the manager tried to comfort her, telling her it was ok and not to worry about it. It was a very strange incident for me to witness after all of my years of restaurant work, but on the whole, that was the only negative experience we had with the servers in France.

After coffee we did a lot more walking around; we went to Île de la Cité (island on the river, originally, the city was sequestered to this island) to see Notre Dame de Paris and other landmarks that I don't remember anymore(such as the one pictured below).
By this time, we started to get anxious for lunch so we began to search for a store to supply the lunch we had in mind. Eventually we found an open grocery store, well, it was only open for 5 more minutes so we ran in, grabbed a round of cheese and some wine (which took some strategy, since we hadn't brought the corkscrew...mental note for next trip), then a few streets over, we managed to find an open bakery where we bought a baguette, then we took our loot to the other side of the river to eat our lunch on the river bank with a beautiful view of Notre Dame and Île Saint Louis, which was thoroughly enjoyable. After lunch we walked across the bridge to Île Saint Louis which was the French's first attempt at city planning resulting in blocks and blocks of magnificent mansions connected by one way streets. They were gorgeous but I can't imagine living somewhere so massive. I thought we had a lot of stuff, but I'm sure that everything filling up my parents basement and the guest room at the Reindl's wouldn't even be able to fill one floor of the 7 or 8 floor houses on the island. We then walked back to Île de la Cité where we contemplated climbing the stairs to the top of Notre Dame, but we were already planning to walk up to the 2nd floor (remember, 43 flights of stairs) of the Eiffel Tower and decided that doing both would just be too much. We did get the typical touristy pictures in front of the church though.

The walk back to the hotel/Eiffel Tower was fairly uneventful although I did find my Parisian dream house. It's the little one with the big blue door, squashed between the two 6 story houses. And to go along with my adorable house with the big blue door, I will drive this will blue car. It will be perfect!

The walk up to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower was not nearly as strenuous as I had imagine it would be, but I have also been walking at least 2 miles (and some days, many more) every day since moving here over a month ago. So I guess in a way, we had been "training" for this ascent. The view was amazing and only one girl came running down the stairs crying and looking as though she would be sick from the height. Here I am after the climb.After walking up the first half (roughly) of the tower, we bought tickets and got in line to ride the elevator to the top floor; unfortunately, there aren't stairs to the top, otherwise we would have done the whole thing. The Tower was pretty packed, which wasn't too much of a surprise since all of the stores were closed and what else are the tourists going to do on a Sunday?
The photo above is my favorite view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, although we still haven't figured out what the building is.
And here is a super cheese picture of Michael and I on the top floor. I hate kissing pictures, I guess I'm just really not a PDA (public display of affection -- for you clueless people) type of person, but Mary made me promise to get a kissing picture on top of the Eiffel Tower. So Mary, this one's for you!
And the whole time in the tower we were 5,849 km or 3,634 miles from home, or close to home at least.

Since it was a Sunday and so many places were closed, we couldn't find anywhere we would rather eat than the little place next to the hotel. It was nice and familiar by this point. Michael ordered a croque madame which is exactly like the croque monsignor I had earlier in the weekend (opened faced ham and cheese) but with a fried egg on top and I ordered french onion soup; I think we were still trying to recover from the massive amount of food we had eaten on Saturday. By this time we were getting a little depressed at the though of having to go home, but we had an hour left so we got our bags from the hotel and did one last lap around les Invalides which is a large block of buildings which was originally used as a war hospital but is now a museum and the final resting place of Napoleon. Here is a picture of it all lit up at night:
And finally, I'll leave you with a favorite picture of Paris taken with the help of a stone wall because we don't have a tripod.

Paris Part Deux

So I forgot to mention the significance of the dog poo in my post about Friday. Funny story actually -- after our aforementioned nap and coffee, we met Harry and Camille in the lobby but instead of leaving for the boat tour right away, as we had expected, Camille told us that because of the dog poop incident and because they had been so late in getting our room ready for us, the hotel was treating us to a glass of champagne in the garden, go figure :-) So we were treated, by the hotel, to our first glass of champagne in France; I should step in dog poo more often!

What a lovely sleep we had Friday night on a bed without a crack that expanded through the night! We were on our own Saturday morning, and when in Paris, the first thing we had to do was go out and get coffee and pastries for breakfast. On our trek for breakfast, we spotted the lovely Jaguar (knew you'd like that Dad) above with a view of la Tour Eiffel in the background. After a delicious chocolate croissant (Michael's) and chaussons aux pommes (apple turnover - mine), we trekked our way up to l'Arc de Triomphe which is so much larger in person than I had ever emagined. We continued our tourist walk down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées (very famous commercial street leading from the Arc toward the) Louvre. I won't attempt to describe everything we saw along the way; there is just way to much and I couldn't begin to relate the incredible history to you. We made our way back across the river and towards our hotel to meet Harry and Camille for lunch at le Jules Verne, Alain Ducasse's restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. This was also our first time up close to the tower, which seemed, at first glance, much smaller than it does in the movies; that feeling quickly changed, however, as we were riding the glass sided elevator up to the restaurant. Just being on the 2nd floor of the tower (2nd floor = 43 regular building floors) seemed incredibly high and that was only half way up the tower!
Lunch was pretty amazing. I've had some nice muli-course meals before, but the food coupled with the incredible view made it that much more enjoyable. We did a 5 course degustation menu including both entrées, one of the two meats, and both desserts. We first had champagne cocktails with passion fruit and something else...I can't remember anymore, but it was delicious! Then the meal started off with an aperatif, a tiny serving of a gazpacho-like cold soup with smoked goose (I may have been smoked duck though). I have copied the menu below (in French and English) for you to look over, and of course, Harry's wine pairings were wonderful with the meal.


HOMARD de nos côtes Bellevue, sabayon au fumet de crustacés
Bellevue lobster, zabayon with shellfish broth

CHOU braisé et foie gras de canard, sucs de cuisson
Braised cabbage and duck liver, cooking juice


Blanc de TURBOTà la plancha, poireaux à peine crémés,
sauce à la figue noire
Pan-seared turbot, lightly creamed leeks, black fig sauce
Michael chose this main course (which was awesome), while the rest of us opted for:

Grenadin de VEAU cuit au sautoir, pommes Anna
Pan-seared veal, potatoes Anna
The veal was the only thing that wasn't could have been a little more rare. But, the potatoes were absolutely amazing!


Palet FRAMBOISE/CITRON, sorbet fromage blanc
Raspberry and lemon shortbread, cottage cheese sorbet
My favorite dessert out of the two, very light and refreshing...

L’ÉCROU AU CHOCOLATet praliné croustillant, glace noisette
Tower bolt, dark chocolate praliné, hazelnut ice cream
This was delicious, but too heavy and rich to end with (after being stuffed)
And of course we got the little treats at the end of the meal. This was a very loose egg white (I think...) custard with chocolate at the bottom and caramel on the top. To the left were french macaroons and to the right was a citrus cookie. There was also a bowl of coffee flavored marshmallows and dark chocolate truffles. Mmmm...I could have eaten them all if I hadn't been so incredibly full!

Here we are, enjoying our lovely lunch
And our wonderful hosts, Harry and Camille, we miss you already!After lunch we took the metro up to the north of the city to Clingancourt which is the open-market (non-food) area. It was a shock when we first came out of the metro station to see the masses of people and bumper-to-bumper traffic; it was the first time we realized that we were in a city comparable to New York. The first part of the market was very up-to-date with lots of vendors selling purses, jewelry, shoes, and for some odd reason, Franklin and Marshall sweatshirts. F&M must have vastly over-produced sweatshirts last year because every other vendor was selling them. Past that open area was the antique area that Camille was looking for. Back when they had lived in Switzerland, this area had apparently been just like shopping at a thrift store, but at that time, the dollar had been very strong in comparison to the franc which is not the case with the dollar vs. the euro. So unfortunately, everything we saw, although incredibly beautiful, just wasn't feasibly to actually buy. It was slightly disappointing but was still very enjoyable to see so many beautiful antiques in one place...maybe someday.
Then we were back on the metro on our way to Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur. Montmartre, for those not familiar with the history, is the highest point in the city, a little hill where, in the 1800's, the artists congregated. Sacré-Cœur is a beautiful basilica located at the summit of the hill (pictured above). There was an impromptu rap-ish concert taking place on the stairs, so the stairs were filled with people sitting, enjoying and drinking Heineken that they bought from a random guy selling cans out of a cooler. We walked through the little village area and stopped for our own Heinekens, when made our way down the many flights of stairs and almost vertical streets (huge exaggeration) to the bottom.

We kept it very light that night for dinner, since we were all still stuffed from lunch. We sat down at Le Source, the restaurant next door for wine, a couple baskets of fries, a cheese plate, charcuterie plate, and nice, crusty french bread, the perfect french meal. After dinner, we sadly said goodbye to Harry and Camille who would be leaving the hotel at 6:30 the next morning for their long-anticipated flight back to Pittsburgh and the pugs; they had been in Europe for almost as long as we had by this time. We were so grateful to them for the incredible trip and for showing us the in's and out's of Parisian travel. We will always have Paris...right? :-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ah Paris

I supposed I should include Thursday in here, I used my bike for an actual errand for the first time :-) I wanted to make sure that we had our tickets into Paris in hand before Friday so I rode into town. The trip was pretty, French drivers seem to be much more accepting of cyclists than in the US, which was a nice change from Pittsburgh. After picking up our tickets, I rode home to find Michael and Manas slaving away at their Continuum Mechanics homework...yuk! Manas stayed for dinner (simple cherry tomato pasta) and even brought us some awesome Indian sweets.

Ok, now on to Paris.

We woke up bright (well not bright, more like pitch-black) and early Friday morning (4:30am) to catch our 6:25 TGV (high-speed) train out of the Metz train station. The train ride was quick and painless, although we use the train tickets for our returning trip, so we ended up in the wrong seats, in the wrong car, with our tickets stamped for the wrong day. Oh well, the man checking the tickets was very nice about it (I'm assuming it happens fairly often), he wrote a note on our tickets, signed and stamped them so that we wouldn't have any problems on the way back. We arrived at the Paris East train station at 7:52 on the dot (exactly the time quoted on our tickets) and found Harry and Camille waiting for us at the end of the platform :-) Hugs and kisses were exchanged, then Harry shuffled us towards the metro and which we caught back to the hotel (pictured on the left) where we were told that our room wasn't quite ready yet. Camille gave us a little tour of the hotel which they had stayed at many times on various trips to France. Unfortunately, she said, it had been "updated" and modernized since they had last visited in an attempt to add more rooms and had lost much of it's charm. She showed us the basement with the computer room, garden and little spa (a tiny room with an oliptical and stationary bike and a small sauna off to one side) where I stepped in dog poop; apparently there was a dog staying at the hotel but don't ask me why the dog was allowed to poop in the spa. Thankfully it was quite dry and I didn't make a mess (don't worry, this will be important later on). We threw our bags in Harry and Camille's room and went next door to Le Source to have le petit dejeuner (a little breakfast) of coffee, bread and butter, croissant, and fresh pressed orange juice. After regaining some energy we took the metro up to Galleries Laffayette and walked through some of the incredibly huge department stores; I pulled out a few dresses, they were made of the most luxurious fabric I have ever felt and had price tags larger than any clothing I've ever touched. We also got to see the old opera house which has been turned into a music academy since the new one was build (it would be redundant to say that the architecture was absolutely beautiful...that's probably understood, but you'll see for yourself when you check out the photo album that I will be attaching to this post). After wandering around that area for awhile we made our way to Le Deux Magots for lunch. Le Deux Magots, according to Camille, is one of the top two cafés in Paris and was made famous by the the people who frequented it: Earnest Hemmingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso and others. Harry and Camille both had saucisson sandwiches, Michael had a cold ham and cheese and I had a Croque-Monsieur (toasted, open-faced ham and cheese). We were pretty boring that afternoon, taking a nap at the hotel and getting coffee down the street (for a whopping 4euro = $6 each!). Next was a boat tour of the Seine river where Michael was able to capture this lovely picture of la Tour Eiffel. I couldn't honestly tell you everything that we saw, but we understood it at the time. The tour "guide" (computer) spoke first in French, then in English, for every sight, and if they had time, they tried to get to German, Italian, and Mandarin. When you see the pictures from the trip (which I will post as soon as I've finished editing all 345 that Michael took) you will get a better idea of everything that we got to see on the tour (which was wonderful, if you ever get to Paris, the boat tours are a wonderful way to see the city).
By this time, we were famished once again (Paris has a way of doing that to you), so we went slightly away from the river to eat at the Grand Corona, which proved to be a typical French bistrot. Michael had steak frites and I had Dover sole, both were delicious. Harry had a risotto, while Camille had escargot and a goat cheese salad and we all shared a crème brûlée which was garnished with a strange fruit that we had never seen (pictured below). After much confusion (it looked like a tomatillo or tomato, but was on a dessert?) we asked the waitress what it was, to which she replied "Cage d'Amour" (cage of love) which we remembered and were thankfully able to look up on wikipedia later on. Here is their definition: The typical Physalis fruit is similar to a firm tomato (in texture), and like strawberries or other fruit in flavor; they have a mild, refreshing acidity. The flavor of the Cape Gooseberry (P. peruviana) is a unique tomato/pineapple-like blend. It was an odd thing to
come across and apparently it is related both to the tomato and Japanese Lanterns (which makes me wish I had tried the berries that I found in our Japanese Lanterns when I was a kid). We walked back to the hotel and on the way, I was able to snap this picture of la Tour Eiffel and the city from the river. Alright, that's all for now, I will finish up the Paris update this weekend (sorry for the delay, editing the photos has taken longer than I imagined) and with everything that went on Saturday, I may need two separate posts. Bon Nuit everyone.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Wow, I hope none of you mind the fact that this blog is essentially turning into a food blog and should be entitled "Mastering the Art of Cooking [in France] on One Burner".'s been a busy week and is only going to get busier, so I'd better get this out while I have a little time to spare.

Last Friday ended up being our grande voyage (great voyage -- great meaning long, not awesome). In the morning, we started off walking into town (heading essentially north) in search of Boutique Solidiarite, which we had gathered from our internet searching, was a charity thrift store (similar to Good Will but not as mainstream). Well, we got there only to find it closed with a sign on the door (which we later said something bizarre about an artist looking for men and women, fees announced), but we did not despair, because it was 1:00 and obviously, they had to shut the store down for at least an hour for lunch. So we walked around attempting to find a kebab stand to get some lunch for ourselves. Eventually we found a Steinhoff's, which is a kebab chain which we hadn't heard great things about but figured we had to try, right? Michael decided that he wanted to try something new, so I ordered a forestier frites (it obviously came with fries, but we had no clue what a forestier sandwich was). As it turns out, it was pretty gross. The picture to the left shows the sandwich after we've eaten off most of the fries but the sandwich consisted of bacon lardons (cubes of bacon), large chunks of hamburger patties, and 2 slices of mushroom with mayo and hot sauce. Ok, it wasn't really gross, quite delicious actually, but had had to consciously not think about how much fat I was ingesting. After lunch we went into a little wine store with a very nice owner who humored me by speaking very elementary french, then invited us to go to his wine bar three streets away where he has tastings; we will have to go sometime. By this time is was just after 2:30 and we assumed that if the thrift store must be open if it was going to open. Alas, it was still closed; we aren't sure if it's closed permanently, the strange sign on the door about the artist doesn't seem like a good sign to me. We started to walk back home and decided to keep going past the apartment in another attempt to find Emmaüs (the thrift store that we tried to find earlier in the week) and this time we found it. It was quite a bit farther than we had expecting and we were actually on the wrong road; we realized that google hasn't updated it's maps of Metz lately and we had been walking on the new 4 lane highway which was recently built parallel to the road we wanted to be on. We remembered the camera this time and were able to get some pictures of the landscape (more will be posted to a new facebook album). Miraculously, they were still open at 4:45 and we were able to walk around. In my muddled french I asked a clerk where the bikes were and she told me that they didn't have any then but would have some next week, on Wednesday. It was dissapointing that we weren't able to get bikes but at least we found the place, found out the hours, and had some idea of when they would have bikes. The walk back was looooong and exhausting. When we made it home, we calculated that we had walked 12.5 miles so far that day and probably ended up with an even 13 after walking to the store for groceries.

The highlight of Saturday was dinner :-) but really, what's new about that? We made Chicken Provençial and it was really an awesome meal, I'd suggest it to anyone at home (I got the recipe off of We made it with chicken legs but the recipe actually called for breasts and aside from the sodium (from the olives), it is fairly healthy. We also made some parsley potatoes to go along with the chicken (pictured with the recipe on epicurious).

Michael finally got a pretty hefty assignment last week for Continuum Mechanics and has been busying himself with that a few nights each week, so I decided on Monday to go to the 1000 level French class over at GTL. It is a much smaller class (me and 3 boys), which I enjoyed, and I've had some more experience with the language than they have, but it will be good to start back where Mrs. Kennedy left off in high school. After class I made a salad niçoise for dinner which is a green salad tossed with lemon vinegarette and topped with hard boiled egg, capers, anchovies, tuna, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, and niçoise olives. I will post a picture to the facebook album but it's not pretty enough to post here; it was 9:00 pm by the time I started plating and at that point, I just wanted to EAT!

Tuesday was fun! GTL held a game night on Tuesday night and Manas, the student body president and one of Michael's Mechanical Engineering classmates, asked me if I would make crêpes to feed the crowd. We had gone to Cora the night before and bought all of the ingredients, so I got up early on Tuesday and started the crêpe makin'. On one burner, it ended up taking 6 hours (with a break in the middle for lunch and French class) and 6 batches of batter to make the 140 crêpes that we ended up taking over at 7. I am really sad that I didn't take any pics of the endeavor, but I had a good time and was really happy to have something to do for the day. When we took the crêpes and our saute pan (to re-heat) over to GTL I got pretty intimidated at the sight of all the French students who came out for the game night, since they actually had the experience to scrutinize my crêpe making skills; I'm taking it as a compliment though that the French students seemed to enjoy the crêpes, some coming back for fourths, fifths, and in one case, sixths! We also met the "other" married couple, he is not at GTL at the moment but studying at Supélec (getting his duel degree), which didn't start classes until last week. Leah, the wife, managed to get a job as an english assistant in two elementary schools (she was able to start looking for a job last November), so she will not be quite as bored as I will. They were a very sweet couple (and got married only 4 days after us!), we will have to spend some time with them.

Today has been another crazy day, it was laundry day, and the kitchen was still a mess from yesterday's explosion of crépes. We also met up with Josyanne (academic director) so we could re-do our housing subsidy application and she informed me that she may have a job possibility for me (which I'm not going to explain in detail, lest I jinx it). We also decided to walk down to Emmhaüs again, since it is Wednesday and I would really like a bike now but will really need a bike if I get a job (fingers crossed). The whole three and a half miles down the road we grumbled about how horrible it was going to be if they didn't have any bikes and we had to walk all the way back home but thankfully, they had bikes and we both found one that suited us. The one in front is the one Michael picked out (although the eventual owner is yet to be determined since they are exactly the same size), it is a Peugeot. For those of you not famlilar with Peugeot, in the states, you can buy their salt and pepper grinders, in fact, Michael and I have a set; here in France, however, they make all kinds of things, you can still buy pepper grinders, but they also make bikes and cars and I'm sure much more. The bike in back is mine (for now), the brand is MBK and the seat needs desperately to be lowered and the front tire needs air, but it is a nice bike. Both bikes are 10 speeds and together cost us 50euro; they made the trip back home much more bearable. Dinner when we got home consisted of another sausage, this one a white sausage (I'm guessing chicken) with cheese, mashed potatoes, and brocolli. And for those of you currently concerned with the state of my liver, please take note of the glass of milk behind the plate :-P

Have a lovely night everyone. Tomorrow will be busy getting ready for our trip to Paris on Friday, it will be so nice to see Harry and Camille!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Long Time Coming...

Sorry for the long hiatus between blog posts. To be honest, we have been really lazy and boring the past week, which would be a good reason to post I suppose, lots of free time. Really though, I just didn't want to bore you all with the mundane...went to class, walked to the store, made dinner, watched a movie, etc. I'm not sure when the picture above was taken but it was a really beautiful day with alternating rain clouds and blinding sunshine.

When I left off last week, we were in the process of making Friday night pizzas, which were excellent; by the time we return to the states we will have mastered stovetop pizzas. Saturday we attempted to get into town for the open market, but apparently you must get there in the morning because when we arrived at 2pm, everyone was gone and the three street sweepers were making it look like no one was ever there. We did go into the covered market and bought some Sausage a Rotir de Vosges and lots of veggies. While walking back home the long way, we passed a wine store and decided to check it out. The main room (or what we thought was the main room) of the shop was fairly small and only had about 10 kinds of wine but multiple liquors...which seemed strange for a wine store. The man working (I'll assume he is the owner) was talking on the phone when we walked in but as soon he hung up he said something to us in French, at which time I explained (in French) that I only speak a little French. After a little more conversation he asked if we wanted to see the wine and when we said yes, he led us down the stairs (which we should have noticed when we first walked in) to the wine cellar. Obviously, there was a much greater selection in the part of the store and after he went through describing the different sections of wine (based on region of origin) and giving us some suggestions (thankfully, keeping it in the under 10 euro range for our sakes), we spent a bit of time deciding on a bottle of 2007 Saint-Bris Sauvignon from the Burgundy region. For dinner that night we cooked up our Sausage de Roti and turned all of those lovely veggies into the ratatouille pictured below. I hadn't made ratatouill since culinary class in school and had forgotten just how delicious it is. Essentially, it is a casserole of eggplant, zucchini, tomato, pepper, and onion which is cooked with garlic, parsley, and lots of olive oil until all the veggies are creamy and infused with their combined flavors. It was an excellent dinner and the wine turned out to be an excellent and very flavorful companion. The sausage, I should mention, tasted just like jimmy dean breakfast sausage links.

On Monday we attempted to find the rumored thrift store and ended up walking roughly 3 miles down the freeway (they do have walkways but I understand why they don't allow it in the US, it was frightening) to find nothing but fields of vegetables and what looked like an old estate or vineyard that is being turned into a hospital. Despite not finding our destination, it was really nice to be out in the country with rolling hills and fields (and a highway, but we'll ignore that). Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the camera along so you'll just have to go by my explanation. The landscape reminded me of driving through the farms back in Wellsboro only flatter (not flat as in mid-west flat, but the hills are much smaller and less severe than the Appalachians).

Wednesday night (sorry I'm skipping some days but really, they aren't even worth mentioning) we made some delicious pork chops, carrots glazed with Orangina (an orange juice drink that is about 1/10 orange juice and 9/10 sparkling water for those who don't know) and some of our local honey from the market, and potato pancakes. Needless to say, with only one burner, the carrots and pork chops were a bit cold by the time the potato pancakes were done, but wonderful nonetheless. I had never made potato pancakes by myself before but had watched my dad do it a million times. Unfortunately, I forgot to drain any of the liquid out of the grated potato before adding in the seasoning and egg, so we ended up having to drain a bunch of liquid off which included some of the egg before we fried them up. The resulting product didn't hold together quite as well as I remembered but tasted just like my dad's and they reminded me of home :-)
We had to find something to serve with them in place of the sour cream that we usually used at home. We ended up caramelizing some onions (well...they went a little past caramelizes), seasoning them with salt and pepper, and mixing in some fromage frais; it was something I had remembered our French teacher mentioning as dip and it went very well smeared over the pancakes (and is much less fattening than sour cream). To go along with this meal, we watched The English Patient, which was enjoyable but the story was full of holes that we spent a good bit of time trying to fill ourselves after the movie was over.

Thursday night, at Aunt Susie's suggestion, we made hamburgers (well, cheeseburgers) and french fries, ate them while watching the Pink Panther, and attempted to not spit out our food while Steve Martin struggled with the word "hamburger".

And Today!!
We went to a meeting at GTL in the afternoon to sign up online for our housing subsidy which will make our rent pretty much dirt-cheap. After the meeting we talked with Moses for a few minutes about possibly finding the illusive thrift store this weekend...let's hope. Michael then had to drop off a couple of papers in Josyane's office (the Academic Director), she asked how I was doing and wondered if there was anything I would like to do....she is now on the hunt and might be able to help me find something to keep me occupied :-) Then on the way downstairs we ran into Albert who suggested that, if we can find a way there, we might go out to some Abbey (about 15km away) for a bread festival this weekend, which sounded awesome to us! All-in-all, a very productive afternoon; Michael and I might just have to hang out at GTL on Thursday afternoons to see what opportunities come our way. I hit a milestone today: I made my first successful spaghetti and meatball dinner; I had attempted once before while still in Pittsburgh but the meatballs didn't have enough binding (egg, breadcrumbs) and we just ended up with yummy meat sauce. Today however, the meatballs stayed balls and were very yummy. Apparently no one uses bread crumbs here, or everyone has too much left over bread to bother buying it in a can, because I ended up chopping up stale bread to make mine. We're thinking that the ground meat, with a label that translated literally into flesh of pork and beef, was some sort of seasoned sausage blend because it was very flavorful. We watched From Hell with Johnny Depp and Heather Graham, then came out of our room (where the blinds were down) to realize that is was only 7:30 and still broad daylight. It was then that we realized just how boring we are; but this should be changing soon. Next week we head to Paris for a long weekend and sometime soon after that we should be recieving our EURail passes which will give us 2 months to travel for 10 days anywhere within France, Germany or BeNeLux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg). Have a good afternoon/evening everyone, I going to spend mine trying to figure out how to watch the Steelers game tomorrow.

Friday, September 4, 2009

New Photos

While Pizza Night pizzas have been cooking away (this week we have a goat cheese, fingerling potato, and asparagus white pizza and a red pizza with bacon, basil, and olives...yum!) I've been busy posting new photos on facebook from the past week; you can view them here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fête de la Mirabelle et mon Anniversaire

Translation: Festival of the Mirabelle plum and my Birthday
So, as it turns out, my internet was shut off on me last night because I had downloaded too many podcasts at one time, we have a 400mb per day allowance for downloading and apparently, downloading 60 45minute podcasts will use that up pretty quickly :-)

Ok, so, we had a pretty exciting weekend. Thursday night kicked off the Fête de la Mirabelle, but we completely forgot about it and ended up missing the crowning of the Mirabelle Queen and her 2! Friday however, we managed to make it downtown to see the the Costume Ball. We weren't quite sure what we would find when we got there, I think I heard that this was the first year they have done this so I'm pretty sure that no one really knew what to expect and therefore, no one really knew what to do. It ended up being about 30 people dressed up in outlandish costumes of no real theme and a bunch of other people standing around gawking at them; there were beer stands and essentially it was an excuse to get drunk and dance. They did have some pretty good music, in particular, there was one African drum group and a group of men sitting on the steps of the Cathedral with their instruments, singing what seemed to be French folk songs (everyone seemed to know the words except us, of course). The picture above was a shot of the Cathedral while we were listening to the folk group, it took many attempts and the use of Michael's steady shoulder to get it this clear.

Saturday was the Marché du Terrior, which means the Market of Terrior, terrior being an untranslatable word meaning the land, culture, people, food, etc of an area. In short, it was a market filled with lots of local stuff. The picture below shows what we bought at the market earlier in the day; up front is a mirabelle tart (individual sized), in the back is some local honey, which we had been trying to buy in the store with no luck, and to the left are 3 saussicon (duck, olive, and pork)...there was also a glass of Mirabelle beer that we bought on that trip. After some walking around the city and a trip to the train station to finally buy a bus pass, we actually went back up to the market where we bought some Mirabelle cake, bergamot candy (a citrus fruit that is the flavoring in Earl Grey tea), and a Pâté Lorraine, which is a meat-filled pastry from the Lorraine region where Metz is located. After the second round at the market we walked down to the other end of town to the huge park where the amphitheater was set up for that evening's concert where we found Moses and Chris (another friend from GTL) waiting to meet up with some friends from Metz. After a few hours, the we met up with the friends from Metz. They had a huge spread laid out on the ground of food, mirabelle tart, beer, and mirabelle liquor. The concert in itself wasn't very exciting, they had a couple of big names (for France), one of the performers was last years winner of French Idol and a guy I've heard of, Sliimy, also sang (with no pants on?!?). After the concert, we turned away from the amphitheatre toward the huge fireworks display they put on, and unlike Wellsboro or Pittsburgh, where the music is set to crappy 80's and 90's music (if you have the radio in your car on), they set the fireworks to classical music; the fireworks were pretty impressive.

Sunday was the final day of the Fête de la Mirabelle which was comprised of an artisans market, which wasn't very impressive, and a parade. The parade was pretty small, maybe 10 bands and 10 floats went by, but the floats were beautiful, covered all over in mums. The picture to the right is the American float complete with a mum-covered hamburger, mum-covered coke bottle, and if you look really hard, the statue of liberty in the background. The only funny thing about the parade, which goes along with the general acceptance of alcohol in Europe, was the fact that on a couple of the floats, one of the riders was serving wine or beer to the other riders, and even some of the people walking through the parade were drinking straight Mirabelle liquor from little glasses (which is strong stuff, let me tell you!). After the parade, we had our first Kebab, which is not the Shish Kebab that we make at home. According to wikipedia, the Kebab is the Turkish predecessor to the Greek Gyro. It is served in pita and uses highly spiced meat (we didn't ask what kind) that is cut off of a rotating vertical spit (just like a Gyro) and is served with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, a ranch-type dressing and some unknown spices that he shook. They shove the kebab down into a skinny bag then cover the top with french fries and more of the dressing. From what we've heard from other GTL students, it seems to be the go-to college food; it's filling, cheap, and REALLY GOOD! In the picture to the right, I'm just about to take a huge bite :-) After catching the bus home (and waiting quite awhile to digest) we cooked up a pre-packaged Stoeffers (spelled Stofllers here, I think) German meal. Essentially, it was a bag of saurkraut, 2 tiny smoked sausages, 2 knacks (hot dogs only better), 2 pieces of poitrine (pork belly meat, what eventually becomes bacon), and 3 little potatoes all vacuum packed and ready to throw into a skillet to heat up. The package said it served 2 people so we couldn't really figure out why they put 3 potatoes in, but Michael and I can share, and it was good, so whatever! Along with our German meal, we watched The Tin Drum which is a strange WWII era movie about a boy who never grows up.

Monday...again, not really sure what we did on Monday aside from attempt to get back into the swing of the week. We made fajitas again, since we had tortillas left over from our last Mexican meal, but this time I just made our normal fajita marinate; the only problem was the it is very hard to just find chili powder here, and if you do it's very expensive because it's considered "ethnic", so the closest I could get without spending 6 euros was cayenne powder. To make a long story short, I kept adding more cayenne, thinking I wasn't using enough, and we ended up practically burning our throats while eating them...they tasted good though, they tasted normal.

Tuesday was my 23rd Birthday...eech, I feel old! The day started off fairly warm, high 70's probably, but by the time we got out of French class at 4pm, it was freezing, cloudy and rainy...essentially, it went from summer to fall in a matter of hours. We went over to Cora to buy supplies for dinner, and after asking the meat-counter guy in very broken and I'm sure, horribly incorrect French, which cut of beef we should buy for Steak Frites (steak and fries) and buying a 5 kilo bag of potatoes (you can't buy any less at Cora, guess we'll be eating a lot of potatoes) we headed home. Oh, we also bought ingredients for homemade mayo (to dip the fries in...yum) and a bottle of Leffe Ruby, which is a new kind of Leffe beer, which Laura (or maybe David) introduced us to, that is made with cranberries...we think...have I mentioned before that the French really love their fruity beers?
So here I am with my delicious Steak Frites, sorry you can't see the steak, we weren't very good with the camera angles. After dinner, Michael convinced me that I must have some cake on my Birthday, even if I don't really like cake (with the exception of Chocolate Mayonnaise cake) so I had a piece of the Mirabelle cake which turned out to be very good and not too sweet, but the Mirabelles were starting to ferment, which made for an interesting dessert.

Wednesday was another boring day, Michael went to class, I went shopping, we made dinner (pasta...boring), and we watched the cult class, Pulp Fiction, which I had never seen before. For the record: Quentin Tarantino is a strange man who makes very strange movies.

And today...we got to walk to the store together, which is always nice (because I don't have to carry the groceries back...and the company is good), and since it has been such a blustery, fall-like day, we made chicken noodle soup. We watched a horrible movie, Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer, which was horrible not because of gore, which is what I was expecting, but just horrible was a horrible movie, poorly acted out, poorly written, hardly any plot to speak of. Essentially, it wasn't really worth watching, but at least I managed to finish up the market bag that I had started on the flight here which is pictured above laying on top of it's mate which was made 6 months ago. As you can see, the blue market bag has been well-used as I expect the pink will be. Alright, that's it for now. Sorry for the infinitely long post tonight, hope you didn't have anything better to do :-) Love you all!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I promise...

I will post tomorrow. Unfortunately, just after I downloaded the pictures to my computer, my internet went down and has been down for about 5 hours; I'm not expecting it to work until tomorrow when I can go speak (in butchered French) to the IT people. Until then...bonne nuit (good night).