Saturday, January 26, 2013

Monterey Institute of International and La Duree

My parents said goodbye as they headed out the door VERY early in the morning for their flight back to the USA. I slept a little while longer, but eventually it was time for m to head out as well.

The Monterey Institute of International Studies was holding an information session for their Translation and Interpretation Masters program. I'm not particularly interested in being a translator, frankly while I can communicate fine and write papers, my french isn't good enough to make a career solely based on it. However MIIS does have a program in International Education Management which interests me greatly. I was hoping to find out a bit about the school itself, even if the program I was interested in wouldn't be addressed directly.

Unfortunately, only the translation and interpretation program was addressed and I had to duck out a little early to catch my train, but I was still glad I went. 

The grey Paris skies weren't exactly begging me to come outside, but a foggy view of the Eiffel Tower is better than none at all. 

And perhaps more importantly that MIIS meeting, it gave me an opportunity to stop by La Duree, famed for their macaroons. I sampled some in lemon, "fleur d'orangier" (orange tree flower), and raspberry. I like macaroons, and they're basically the new cupcake craze, but of all the lovely treats that France has to offer, a tarte citron is still number one in my heart.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Carnavalet Museum

For our last museum visit we went to the Carnavalet. I'm not even quite sure how to describe this museum. Parts were like a Manor home frozen in time, other parts were like walking through an eccentric deceased aunt's home.

I wasn't a huge fan, mostly because I felt like I kept getting lost, though my dad enjoyed it.

The evening was just a quiet dinner at home, spending time together while my parents packed their bags and prepared for the flight the next day.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Musee d'Orsay and Cafe Angelina

A late start to the day meant that we ate lunch at the Musee d'Orsay cafe rather than somewhere else first and then continuing on. The upstairs cafe has sit down service, and while the menu is somewhat limited and overpriced, the setting is quite fantastic. The room is alive and cheerful with a large clock taking up the entire wall. A fantastic ambiance overall, and the food wasn't bad either. 

Musee d'Orsay was created out of an old train station which accounts for the tall ceilings and expansive space. Musee d'Orsay is probably my favorite museum. I suffer from a severe afflication called "Museum Fatigue." The second I walk into a museum, I instantly get tired and want a nap. Musee d'Orsay is one of the few where this doesn't happen. The second floor contains many benches for a rest, in case I am hit with a case of the "sleepies."

They're in the midst of moving around some of the exhibits and so a lot of the impressionists works  are now on the top floor. It's a change I don't particularly care for, as I loved the ability to wander through the different rooms from painting to sculptures and back again. Once they've finished the installations it should be improved.

Afterwards we walked through the Tuileries to Rue Rivoli to get an afternoon pastry at Cafe Angelina. While they have astounding pastries, they are really known for the hot chocolate. Both Mom and Dad ordered the hot chocolate which allowed me to sample, but stick to the Cafe Angelina Tea which is kinder to my somewhat lactose intolerant stomach. However, we all got delicious pastries. No one was disappointed with our afternoon snack. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Victor Hugo's House, Louvre and Bofingers

In the morning we headed over to Places des Voges to Victor Hugo's House and Museum. It was nice, but I didn't find it particularly remarkable either. It was mostly just furniture and staged rooms and while I usually love getting to glimpse into how other people live their lives, this museum just didn't really grab me. 

After lunch, Dad and I headed to the Louvre while Mom rested her leg/ knees. Dad had been campaigning hard to go to the Islamic Art museum, which I wasn't too excited about, and he conceded to the Louvre. 

However, when we got there I was reminded of the fact that in the last few years they've added on another piece to include Islamic Arts! So Dad and I headed there first, where he was very happy to see all the carpets and tiles. I liked it was well, though I always just get the feeling of being home. 

I have a few favorites in the Louvre, most of all, especially with  5 weeks before my Paris Half Marathon, Nike- the Winged Victory of Samothrace. 

For dinner we headed to Bofingers, a restaurant my dad been excited to eat at since it's the inspiration for the restaurant in some detective novels he likes. Mark, a friend from Kalamazoo College was also able to join us. Both of us did the teaching program right after graduation and are back again this year, though Mark lives in Paris, and I live in the middle of nowhere- haha. 

We had a lovely dinner and it was really nice to catch up with Mark again. The downside to the meal came several hours later as Dad's stomach started to turn- we think he must of had a bad oyster in the plate he got. Mom and I are working on convincing him to avoid seafood when traveling as he also got some mild food poisoning when we were in Rouen. Despite his unhappy stomach the rest of us had a great time! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Saint Chapelle and the Conciergerie

Texas, Senegal and Guadeloupe has significantly thinned out my blood, and I feel that I served my meteorological equivalent of jury duty with 3 winters in Kalamazoo, so I was not too thrilled about the snow and low temperatures that Paris had been experiencing. Luckily, it was no one's first trip to Paris, so we were not required to walk around outside too much and instead took shelter inside museums and beautiful churches. 

Our first visit of the trip was to Saint Chapelle, a gorgeous, airy feeling church in the center of town. 

While I loved the stained glass, I was particularly stuck by the star and fleur de lys covered ceilings. A feel they are a huge improvement on the typical stone work in churches. It added a brightness to the room, even on the decidedly dreary day. 

We stopped for lunch at a typical brasserie and to warm up a while, but afterwards we attacked the conciergerie. The Conciergerie is decidedly not on my "must-see Paris" list. However, I didn't know that until we visited, but oh well. There's not a whole lot going on there besides some scary old mannequins of prisoners in cell awaiting execution. It had interesting information about Marie Antoinette as she was held there for some her time before her execution but the rooms had changed so much in the intervening years, that they don't even know where exactly she stayed. 

There was also special exhibit they had about gothic buildings around Europe, that also extended to showing the influence in fictional works including Lego sets and Harry Potter. They lost me by that part of the exhibit. 

Even in the junky weather, it's hard to not love Paris when you have beautiful architecture like this around you.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Arrival to Paris!

An invitation to a wedding in Germany brought an unexpected trip to Paris for my parents, and for me a chance to spend time with my lovely parents and a few days off from work and some time to enjoy the city of lights.

I still had classes on Monday, so I took the evening train up to Paris- though I was able to leave without incident, recent snow, as it has a habit of doing, was wrecking havoc on European transportation. Mom and Dad's train from Cologne, Germany to Paris has been canceled and after some poor costumer service, and then some VERY improved service, they were able to get a train to Brussels, and continue on to Paris.

While they were several hours delayed, we ended up arriving at the apartment rental within 5 minutes of each other.

After many hugs and kisses, pizza and wine, we settled in to our beds to recuperate from travels.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dîner Chez Malaval

Dider, my responsable at the high school has been extremely kind and welcoming. His kindness extends not only to me, but to my friends as well. Not did he welcome me over for a Sunday lunch, but Maria and Alex as well.

Because of the snowy weather and winter weather that had settled in, he had us over for raclette. Most simply raclette is a type of cheese (delicious, delicious cheese) but it also describes the meal. Raclette requires a special hot plate/ warming station/grill, the raclette grill is placed in the center of the table and everyone has a little dish to hold cheese that goes under the warming element of the raclette machine.

The delicious gooey, melted cheese as taken from the heat as one wants (remember, everyone has their own little piece) and you pour the cheese over a variety of dried meats, potatoes, baby pickles, and pickled pearl onions. AND IT'S DELICIOUS! Cheese and potatoes, with a little bit of pickles- who could want more?

There are certain rules about a raclette  meal that Didier informed us of;

1. NEVER would you have a cheese course afterward (understandable as everyone has already consumed their weight in cheese)
2. Always a dry white, never a sweet one. Never a red.
3. Raclette makes you very thirsty, and it's expected that people will drink a lot with it.

Because it is a heavier meal, raclette is traditionally eaten after a day of winter sports (skiing, snowshoeing etc) as a way to fill the belly. Also, you need a full day of skiing to counteract even half of the calories consumed in a raclette meal. Of course, there was much more information as well, including ample descriptions of what all of the meats were, where they came from, what is most traditional- but I couldn't hold that much information in my brain!

A lunch invitation is never simply a meal- so of course we got to spend a lot of time with Didier and his lovely wife and kids. Lucie was even kind enough to get out Trésor, her bunny rabbit, for us to play with.

Their duplex is in the medieval center and in winter with the tree leaves gone, has a lovely view of the Chateau in town as well as the nearby church.

The Malavals have been extremely kind to me, and I feel very fortunate for them to have welcomed me into their lives so warmly.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A bite of America

One of my favorite things to cook in France is chocolate chip cookies. For all of the talent they have with pastries, they have not yet properly mastered the chocolate chip cookie. Since David Lebowitz's move to France, brownies have broken onto the scene, but REAL chocolate chip cookies still aren't that popular. 

Of course, cooking in another country does not come with out it's difficulties. While most things are easily translated finer points can still be difficult to work out. I used a modified version of the Nestle Tollhouse Cookie recipe which is easily found online (the one modification is to use half the amount of butter that they suggest. Yup, half.)

Here is my international version that I've created (alright, done a lot of internet conversions for). If you don't have a scale, and for general American recipes, I recommend bringing some measuring cups and table/teaspoons with you abroad.


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (280 grams), 1 teaspoon baking soda (.5cl), 1 teaspoon salt (.5cl),  1/2 cup (1 stick) butter softened (113 grams), 3/4 cup granulated sugar (150 grams), 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (165 grams), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (.5cl),  2 large eggs, 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, 1 cup chopped nuts
  • Ingredient Notes:

  • Baking soda: It can be hard to find, but look for "bicarbonate." It's not always with the other baking things, but is close to the milk (strangely) at my Carrefour.
  • Brown Sugar: "Cassonade" is the direct translation however that is not ample. Cassonade is usually rather dry, and is more similar to "Sugar in the Raw" than the brown sugar we know in the USA. I've had success looking in the fairtrade "ethicable" products. Other than that I have been unable to find regular brown sugar. (a combination of molasses and granulated sugar can also be substituted but I haven't seen molasses in France).
  • Vanilla extract: Possible, but more difficult to find. Instead it is easy to find vanilla sugar. I use two packets instead of the vanilla extract.
  • Chocolate Chips: So this is France's biggest problem in regards to making chocolate chip cookies! It's sometimes possible to find some chocolate chips, but they are small and overpriced. Instead, buy about 300 grams of chocolate (3 100g chocolate bars) and go ahead and chop them up with a chef's knife. I have used Milka milk chocolate bars and it's turned out well.
  • Nuts: Nuts are expensive so I left them out
  • Cream the butter with sugars and vanilla. If your apartment is really cold, then cut the butter into little slivers and hit them with a hair dryer for a little bit. Make sure they don't start melting though!
  • Then add the eggs, one by one, to the butter. Mix well before adding the next egg.
  • In another bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients except chips and nuts.
  • Then add the flour mixture, little by little and stirring well to the butter mixture. 
  • After all the flour mixture has been mixed in, fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Bake in the oven for 8 minutes at 375F, 190C or gas mark 5. 


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Galette des Rois

January 6th is the epiphany and it is celebrated with a cake called the "galette des rois" or "King's Cake" which celebrates the three wise men visiting the Baby Jesus. I'm pretty sure that it's actually just an excuse to continue the holiday season. The "galette du rois" are brought in all through the first weeks of January to work places and immediately crush hopes of keeping new year's resolutions to eat better.

The first Wednesday swim practice of each month we have a little snack party in the office with the team. Because it's January  this also included a galette de rois. There is a small figurine baked into the cake, and whoever finds the piece is named the king or queen. To make sure there is no cheating when the slices are given out, tradition states that the youngest person in the room climbs under the table and states the name of the person to receive the next piece. Efforts by the swim team to have me climb under the table were thwarted by the fact that I knew Stephanie is younger than me.

Despite the two cakes that were doled out, only one figurine or "feve" was found inside. Perhaps the other one ended up in someone's tummy?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Eve in Paris

The end of my vacation brought me through Paris and with enough luck, also a visit to my friend Mandy who I met in Kalamazoo when we both did KCheer. She was in Paris for winter break and visiting her mom and sister. She was also nice enough to welcome me in and let me stay with her.

Our walk of the city included the ever iconic Eiffel Tower

And a walk over the bridge named for the first President of Senegal- Leopold Senghor. 

Mandy also convinced an old man at the park to share bread so we could feed the birds.

I wasn't as brave about having birds in my hand as Mandy was..
For the evening celebrations we met up with my friend from Montlucon, Eddie, his girlfriend who was visiting from Finland and their friend who they had met when traveling in South America. We had plans to go to the Eiffel Tower, but we were having too much fun at the apartment, and with plenty of drinks, we had no reason to move. 

The night continued with dancing Gangnam Style on the Paris Metro (and streets, and another party...). All in all, a fantastic way to ring in 2013!