Friday, December 25, 2009

A New Album

I've started a new Metzing Around photo album on facebook complete with all of the new pictures since the end of Fall semester. Click HERE to view the pictures.

What a Wonderful Christmas

While it is difficult to be so far from family and friends during what the song says is "...the most wonderful time of the year", we have managed to make the most of our first Christmas together as a young married couple in a foreign country. On Wednesday we managed to get all of our Christmas shopping and wrapping done in a record 4 hours and then we spent two long shopping trips before the holiday stocking up on essentials for the long weekend with no open stores and tons of time to eat. We ended up with an impressive spread...foie gras, plenty of cheese, plenty of wine, escargot, a duckling, duck fat, a lamb leg, pork belly, lots of veggies and beans...oh, and of course, butter. And in case any of you worried (haha) that we weren't eating well in France, our main concern is some form of early onset heart disease :-)

Since we have no current income, we agreed that this this Christmas would be a frugal one. Most of our presents for each other were apartment necessities, but we made sure that each had a surprise gift under the tree. Michael ended up with a teapot shaped tea bag holder (more of a gift for me, really), escargot/oyster forks, escargot baking plates, a USB wall plug for his iPod and a new kitchen scale. My loot included a metal mixing bowl (I can finally make Grandma Baker's rice pudding!), chopsticks, new headphones and 1000 Bornes, a favorite french card game that we played incessantly in High School French class. We made a delicious brunch of French toast with some Canadian maple syrup and fried potatoes then we played lots of 1000 Bornes and watched some TV.

Excluding the whole being-a-quarter-of-a-world-away from "home", we have managed to make a pretty good temporary home here in Metz. We are so thankful to have this incredible opportunity to live in France and travel Europe but we definitely look forward to being at home again with family this time next year. In the meantime though, we are greatly anticipating the arrival of Michael's mom and dad this weekend. We will be traveling to southern France, very close to the Spanish border. It will be a much needed break from Metz, this frigid weather, and a much needed visit with family :-)
Enjoy the remainder of your Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Finale

Since Michael is currently occupied trying to compete with the pretty ribbons I put on his presents last night, I thought I would steal his computer for a few minutes to update you on our latest Christmas Market adventure in our hometown of Metz.

We awoke to a blustry and snowy Saturday morning. I had been jealous of all the wonderful snow that has been hitting the northeast lately and was happy that we got to enjoy some of our own. Unfortunately, this cold and white weather did not make for a very amicable trip into town, but we'll get to that later. As we were walking around the lake to the bus stop we noticed all of the resident birds had flocked to this end of the pond...I had just said something about wondering what the birds ate when it was this cold when we noticed that people had thrown entire baguettes onto the lake for their feasting enjoyment. I'm not sure if you can make them out in the picture but it was an interesting thing to see.

Here is a glimpse of the Metz Christmas market.  As you have probably noticed, it bares a striking resemblence to the Christmas markets in Strasbourg and Reims. As such, most of the contents of the booths were similar and didn't interest us enough to warrant stopping in the very cold (1º with windchill). We didn't really find much to buy except for some delicious mixture of potatoes, cream and lardons that we scarfed down for lunch. We did manage to make it to all of the markets just for the sake of seeing them all. In between markets we would find a large department store to explore so our feet had time to recover from the chill.

On one of said breaks, we decided to take another walk-through of the Metz Cathedral and this time, take some pictures. 
After freezing and walking for most of the day, we were ready for a break and a nice warm drink. We met up with a Metzer friend, Vanessa (I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of all of us) at one of the markets for some hot mulled wine...YUM! The picture isn't meant to do much more than demonstrate just how cold it was. Around the center of the table you can see the wine ice forming from all of the wine hungry customers who couldn't keep the drink in their cup.
After picking Vanessa's brain for some of her favorite French restaurants in Metz, we said goodbye and made our way to the place at the top of her list where we enjoyed our first multi-course French meal in Metz. It was quite a treat, be jealous!

I will try to post again over the next few days but we all know how bad I am at posting regularly, so if I don't get to posting before, have a very merry Christmas everyone! We will miss our families and friends this holiday season but are incredibly grateful to be spending Christmas in this wonderful country.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ikea Adventures

Since Michael took his last final last week, we have been focusing on finally furnishing what used to be called my "office" but was essentially the room without the beds filling it up. With some help from Ikea experienced friends, we managed to make our first trip out there. It is on the opposite side of Metz from us, so our trip involved one bus trip into the main stop in Metz, then we caught another bus out to Ikea. Our first trip out was essentially an 8 hour day, including an hour out there, an hour back, and the 6 hours in between that we actually spent picking out stuff. For those of you who know Michael, you know that 6 hours is not an exaggeration. But after finally picking everything out, we had a new problem -- getting it all back to our place.

At first, we were planning to rent one of Ikea's trucks to bring everything home. It was a very appealing idea to me since it has now been 4 months (4 MONTHS!!!) since I last drove and I am starting to miss it terribly. In the end though, another GTL couple were able to help us out in their "large by French standards" car. After getting everything back to the apardorm (my new word for where we live)...

 ...and clearing out what had mainly been used as temporary Christmas tree storage...

...we got to work assembling the tables (in the background) and the couch/futon.

 After everything was put together, we ripped open some more bags...

...and finally put the whole room together.

And the next night, we thoroughly enjoyed our new room along with a finger-food feast while decorating our Christmas tree (photos of that to come later, when we get a tree topper and it is finally finished).

And no, we didn't intend to wear matching outfits in that picture :-)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Strasbourg Marché de Nöel

Michael is finally taking his final final of the semester (phew!) and boy are we excited for the coming month of relaxation and a visit from his parents. While he is off racking his brain for 3 months worth of Wave Propagation knowledge that he stores somewhere in his brain, I thought I would take a few minutes to highlight a few of our favorite times in Strasbourg the weekend before last.

By the time we arrived and settled into our hostel on Friday afternoon it was already starting to get dark and since the market didn't actually open until Saturday morning, we just spent our time wandering the city by night. The Strasbourg Cathedral was completed in the 1400's and was the tallest building in the world at that time.

Once the sun came up Saturday morning and we were able to see the amazing Germanic architecture, we both immediately fell in love. For the longest time I thought this kind of architecture only existed nowadays in the Christmas village of Disney World, to see the original buildings, dating back to the 15th century, was incredible. We would build a house just like the orange one in the picture above if it wouldn't look to ridiculous back in the states.

This little cone of roasted chestnuts certainly put me in the Christmas mood although they were roasted in a drum roaster rather than over an open fire. Oh well...*sigh*. They were still delicious and much easier to peel than the ones we had to boil for our Thanksgiving sausage and chestnut sausage.

I'm mostly showcasing more of the beautiful German architecture in this picture but I also wanted to point out the buildings built right up against the water. This is a very common thing in Europe but I am still quite uneasy about it, I have a hard time restraining day-mares of them collapsing into the water.

As you can gather from the picture, Michael's hot, spiced wine was too hot to handle, so he walked around for quite awhile with only one glove on. For lunch, we both enjoyed some warm spiced wine (he had red, I had white) and a tarte flambée. Tarte flambée is a traditional alsacian food (we were in the Alsace region) consisting of a round, flattened piece of bread dough (similar to pizza) with crème fraîche (similar to sour cream), lardons (cubes of bacon), and cheese. For portability reasons, ours was made on a baguette rather than the bread dough.

Above is a daytime view of the interior of the Strasbourg Cathedral.

With Michael's finals completed, we will be getting to work decorating our Christmas tree, working on some homemade goodies, and finally furnishing our "apartment"; stay tuned for updates.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

In Lieu of Dickens

For those of you reading who are not familiar with our hometown of Wellsboro, Dickens of a Christmas is the once-a-year festival where the main street of our little old Victorian town is filled with vendors, performers, and tourists. I enjoyed the festivities much more as a child but I'll admit that in the past 5 years or so, my aversion to crowds of people has taken the fun out of it. But since we are in France this year, we concluded that we will have to take part in the French traditions which includes a Christmas Market or Marché de Nöel in practically every town.

Our first trip was to Reims in the heart of the Champagne regon. Reims is a similar size to Metz and while we spent some time walking around the vendors' booths, the majority of the trip was spent exploring the rest of this historical city. And since historical trips to cities in Europe is becoming a redundant topic in this blog, and since you can view the full photo album from this trip HERE, I won't bore you with too many details.

Here is some incredible history for you: Mars Gate, which the only remaining monumental gate of the Roman city of Durocortorum. It was built in the 3rd century.

The Foujita Chapel, built in 1966 on land donated by the Mumm Champagne house. If you want more history on this beautiful chapel, click HERE.

I don't have much of a caption for this picture; essentially, I have a thing for creepy old cemeteries (a passion that Michael does not share) and boy did we find a doozey in Reims. The cemetery was inaugurated in 1787 and has certainly seen better days. While there are new sections of the cemetery, the old sections are nearly falling apart. I'm not sure if the dilapidation is caused by time, vandalism and general wear alone or if WWII had anything to do with the destruction but everywhere you look, the granite slabs covering underground tombs have been shifted partway off and tombstones are smashed.

We spent a good part of our first afternoon attempting to duplicate an etching that we have back home of the Reims Cathedral. This is the closest we managed to get to the original picture although unfortunately, when the etching was made, the trees and streetlamps didn't exist. There also wasn't any scaffolding on the original picture which means we will (boo hoo) have to go back before our time in France is up so that we can get a better picture.

Here are some of the actual booths at the Christmas market. You can find gingerbread, hot spiced wine, cheap knockoffs of expensive knives, Christmas ornaments, delicious meat pies (which were made up the majority of our diet those two days), and much, much more.

 After more wandering around Reims the next morning we found our way to Saint Remi Basilica on which construction was started in the 11th century. The building was badly damaged during WWI but has since been restored.

As a final salute to Reims and our favorite meal while there, we enjoyed this delicious lunch in the park. 

Michael just got back from a final review for this Nuclear class and will need his computer to study, so unfortunately I will have to finish off this post at a later time. Enjoy Dickens Wellsborians!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Giving Thanks

Despite being away from our families this holiday season (until the Reindls come at Christmas) were were still able to have a lovely Thanksgiving day celebration with our Georgia Tech Lorraine family. Somewhere around 80 people showed up; there were professors, PhD students, masters and undergrad students. We had some French students that came and quite a few brought along their families.

Everyone brought along a dish and we managed to have most of the Thanksgiving essentials covered along with some amazing Indian food and French cuisine thrown in. There were almost as many dessert dishes as there were main course dishes. Michael is pictured on the left with our dessert plate. After an explanation of the Thanksgiving tradition and eating all of that wonderful food, the student government hosted a talent show. Our upstairs friend Kyle played his banjo and sang with another guitar-playing student Peter; their duo ended up winning the talent show prize. There was also a couple of French guys who sang, a guy with a yo-yo type acrobatic...thing and a Chinese man who sang and played the guitar. After the talent competition they set up a karaoke machine but soon after the first person got up to sing hysteria ensued when bare chested women showed up on the projector screen. As it turns out, the karaoke machine that the student government rented had a whole catalog of playboy songs which were definitely not meant for family fun. Obviously it wasn't a preferred outcome of the Thanksgiving dinner but in all honesty, we are in France where bare chested women are a normal occurrence on prime time TV and roadside billboards.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Photo Update

~Metzing Around photos have been updated HERE
~Click HERE to view pics from our trip to the Reims Christmas Market
~Click HERE to view pics from our trip to the Strasbourg Christmas Market

Along with cleaning, shopping and making dinner tomorrow (Leah and Kyle are coming down for dinner) I am hoping to update you on the past few weeks.