Sunday, March 25, 2012

Round trip France (and the world) in a day

A couple weekends ago, I heard rumors of this Agriculture Expo, which to me just sounded like the hay and poop-smelling building at the State Fair.  No thanks, I'll pass.
And then I got a text on Sunday, the last day of the expo, from Maygan saying that it was amazing and there was an entire building dedicated different regions of France and the food and wine that each region offers.  Food & wine from every region of France?? It took about 20 seconds to make that decision.  Be right there!

When I arrived, I called and told Maygan I was in Corsica, and she told me to wait there.  And thus our tour of France began.

First, Maygan whipped up a batch of potatoes in this giant frying pan.
Then we headed over to the islands for a taste of Martinique.  We were offered some of this crazy fruit, cut open by the lady in the background who made me think for a slight second that we are actually in the French Caribbean.
Here Kyle examines the bizarre spikey fruit and demands that it explain itself.
Oh hello cute guy. I don't even care that this picture turned out blurry because you're churning sorbet by hand for me. In a bucket.
You know they have machines for this now, right?  Sticking with the wooden bucket and crank, method, huh?  Okay...

It all seemed so silly, this labor-intensive churning within a tiny wooden bucket filled with ice...until I got a cup of the coconut milk sorbet that was being made.  The creamiest, freshest, most delicious ice cream goodness one can imagine outside of an Italian gelato stand.

We turned right to exit the islands and headed for the Basque region of France...
where Maygan & Kyle had earlier spotted some delicious looking cones of cheese & dried sausage, but insisted they must wait for me to enjoy it with them.  What good friends have I!!

Here Maygan does the "I found them, there they are!" pointing dance.
 What we had long been seeking has been found.
Behold...wooden cones filled with saucisson and cheese!
Oh such delights were these.  And then...look out!!
This kid tried to run Kyle over with his car!

Okay it's time to get real...We're heading to southwest France for some foie gras! And not JUST foie gras...but a foie gras sandwich!
Merci, monsieur, indeed!

As we searched the map to make sure we had thoroughly traveled around all of France, I looked to another building on the map and realized there was a building dedicated to none other than...the world!!  Japans was there, Italy was there, we had to go!!

So we made a bee line for the door and headed to building E, where we were greeted by Chile to our right and Peru straight ahead, selling piles of roasted sugar-coated nuts of all kinds.
Italy showed up strong with basins of olives...
And the most creative marketing from the Italian truffle oil stand.
The man behind the sign pointed out the thousands Japan must have spent on their incredible professional signage across the way, and said that no one took pictures of their signs...but they used a permanent marker and have had nonstop pictures all day.  Well done truffle stand, well done.
Well, hello Morocco!!  Yes, I will have 5 pastries and a cup of mint tea.  I ran over to Maygan and Kyle, in line for a beer in Ireland, and let them know I had just spent 14 euros in Morocco.  We were like kids in a candy store, between the France building and the World building. Just running around yelling what delicious thing we just saw somewhere.

I then left to wander a bit, seeing what else was around the corner while they waited for their Irish pint, and ran back exclaiming, "They're handing out caviar and vodka in Russia!!"  And they were.
For 3 euros.  Ah, forget it.
Dancing in joy over the beer finally delivered.
Maygan and I had some difficulties with the Moroccan pastries.  They are quite coated in honey.  More than anything, we wanted to take a picture in front of the Groupama sign.

And if it wasn't was stringy!
Angel hair pasta-looking feathery hay-like mess of a pastry!
Yep, there's no other way to eat that thing.

And then, to wrap up the evening, we did actually go to the animal building, which was exactly what I thought it would be like...a massive stench-filled arena of animals and hay.
Ah, the rare faceless pig.

Awww babies!!!
What the...he is staring at me and SMILING!!
It's kind of a adorable...and kind of weird.

All in all, the two-story France building was incredible.  It far outshone the world, which is a good self-representation of how France feels about itself.  We will be going again next year.  This is an agriculture expo I will be happy to visit again!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Snapshots 3.12-18

Leaving work late Monday night...Still makes me smile that I can see the beam of the Eiffel Tower circling above the building next door.

Proper labeling if I ever saw it!

Checking a restaurant off the list! Chez Denise is over 100 years old, and it's in Les Halles, where the gigantic city market was located for years.
Went with Maygan, Kyle, and their two friends in town, Kerri and Justin...
...and got the same thing as Anthony Bourdain when he featured this restaurant in the first episode of No Reservations: Blanquette de Veau.

Picnicking Season is officially open!! For the first time in 6 months, it's warm enough to sit outside in the sun.  Oh how I've missed it!
Make that a double picnic!!  In honor of opening day of Picnicking Season, I had two picnics. Lunch AND dinner.  It was glorious.

Celebrating a friend's birthday with wine, cheese, charcuterie, & tartines.  The best part was the appetizer...
We had difficulty finding a place that would feed 20 people, and continued to get rejected wherever we went.  It was getting late and everyone was really hungry, so the birthday girl bought cans of Pringles from a convenience store across the way to tide everyone over, and someone else got sushi to go as we waited for the food.  Pringles & sushi, bon appetit!

Jillian and I got invited to a new private bar that just opened.  It's so private that the front is an unmarked all black facade with no windows and just a buzzer.
St. Patrick's in Paris? No thank you, ever again. We went to meet up with coworkers at an Irish pub, expecting jovial Irish jigging and the like.  When we arrived. people were pouring out onto the sidewalks in both directions, you could barely squeeze your way inside, shuffling along smashed in between other people, where it smelled like a frat house, was 1,000 degrees, and they played traditional Irish rave music.  No wait, just rave music.  With strobe lights. At the loudest possible volume for human ears to handle before bursting into flames. They must have been trying to thin out the crowd, and it was working.  Jillian and I politely stayed for 4 minutes before squeezing our way out of the techno sweat house of insanity.

On the opposite end of Saturday night...I wrapped up the week with a wonderful Sunday spent an hour outside of Paris with a French family!  Maygan & Kyle met a French couple, Phillipe and Martine, while on vacation in Prague, and they were invited for a Sunday lunch!  Since the Frenchies didn't speak much English, and Maygan and Kyle don't speek much French (oh my gosh-"speek". I'm leaving it. Couldn't be better.), I was happily invited along to help translate.  We had a long, multi-course meal with lots of laughing over the silliness of trying to speak in another language and the difficulties we each find with the other's language.  Their son, Maxime, helped translate as well.  After a nice long lunch, we went for a walk to the nearby 13th century chateau, and headed back to Paris around 6pm.  It was my first time since moving here to hang out with a French family, and they were wonderful!  We're already dreaming up what we could make to invite them over for a proper Tex-mex feast!  Velveeta can be mailed to 3 Avenue de Champaubert, Paris, France, 75015, should you feel so inclined.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Favorite Memories of My First Year in Pars: Summer

June - Perfect weather, new friends, and Fete!

Maygan and I take a bakery tour with the Head of the Bakery Mafia.

First care package!!! This made my month!!

It doesn't make sense that this should be worthy of a favorite memory, but I'm obsessed with this Noodle place Maygan & I stumbled upon on Rue St. Anne. This street is filled with Japanese restaurants, and I can't seem to ever find this place again. Oh but I will.

An important milestone that made my summer: Instant friendship with Kristin Biscuits Friend Gnome Christie.

Making friends at Bo Bun. What a great evening.

One of my favorite nights of the year - Fete de la Musique, a famous French music festival celebrating the longest day of summer, June 21st. Live music, bands, dancing in the streets in every city all over France.  We rode through the streets of Paris on bikes, 20-strong, stopping to dance along the way.

At the very last minute, I booked a B&B in Normandy, packed a bag, and rushed to the train station. 2 hours later I was in Normandy.
Staying here.
An awesome quick-trip vacation. Something I need to do more often!

Svedish Dinner Party, ya! The first Girls Supper Club, themed Swedish night for Swedish Midsummers. Since I had to cancel my trip to Sweden, we got to have a little taste of it here.

July - Tour de France, Normandy, and Bastille Day.

Column-painting day!  Bethany and I create a masterpiece!

Camping out on a gorgeous day to watch the Tour de France

Watching the end of the Tour at Dernier just before our work shift started.  Accompanied by our favorite basque board of meat & cheese and a glass of Chardonnay, it was perfection.

Fireman's Ball.  Dream come true.

2nd Favorite Day/Night of the year - Bastille Day!

It was all so beautiful and surreal, I actually cried.

Came home one night to a neighborhood street party! All the neighbors spilled out onto the streets to meet each other and eat together at tables all set up right outside my building. Tables, water, wine, and baguettes were provided. Made friends with a family in my building and the rose boutique owner across the street!

Brian fixed me up an old bike, and I love it!!  How did I go all this time without a bike??

July brought a strange bout of cold & rainy weather. Usually, when it rains, it's a light drizzle that doesn't last too long.  Suddenly it got cold and it rained hard. Day after day.

We had to create make-shift ponchos for customers out of trash bags because the crazy non-stop torrential rain week wiped us out of ponchos.

The most fun day at work!

A glimpse of the Eiffel Tower's 1am sparkle through a tiny crack between two buildings while riding home on my bike.  I hit the brakes and went back to watch.  I still think about it any time I ride past that spot.  It was just one of those moments.

A wonderful meal at Frenchie Wine Bar, sitting at a little table outside on the cobblestone of a tiny side street.  One of those "Is this real??" situations.  I have those a lot here.

August - A great month.

LOVED having Katrina here.  Didn't realize how much I missed my best friend!!   

Laughing so hard I had to lean over because it felt like I tore my abdomen. While crying.

Because of pictures like this.

It gets to that point in the summer where we get so many customers coming through the office each day, that by the time we reach the last 2 hours of the Butterfly shift (12 hours, i.e. 8-8, see the butterfly?), and we now need to corral 8 night bike groups of 175 people through the office. So we become delirious, have an espresso from the magical Tassimo machine, and thus hyped up on coffee and ready for some night bike insanity, start playing with bungee cords and seeing who can jump over water island.

We usually ended up walking the long 7 minutes to our favorite spot under he Eiffel Tower to have a picnic of fresh bread, cheese, veggies, and meat.  I love warm summer picnics.

Sometimes it's small, 3-4 people, and sometimes the whole crew rallies.
Either way, it's fun, and we usually find ourselves there until the 1am sparkle when the Tower goes dark.

I love riding bikes at night. This was a fun evening searching for somewhere to eat after Bo Bun was too full to take us. And I loved that Kristin just rode on the back of Jack's bike side-saddle without holding on.

A typical weekly occurance - going over to Maygan & Kyle's for dinner. A favorite.

Passing the 1am sparkle on a bike ride home...still, always, and ever in awe that this is something normal I pass on my way home.

A favorite find with Kristin...While having a group picnic at the Eiffel Tower, we heard angelic melodious singing, and went to find what we believe to be a group of singing Nordic gnomes visiting Paris from their homeland in the Fjords.

This was the peak of "Mange Dimanche" season, where we'd all pitch in on market day, and two girls would go load up at the market with whole roasted chickens & potatoes, veggies, hummus, cheese, baguettes, and fruit, and we'd push the two tables together and have a huge collective office picnic. Sadly, the summer office staff were on their way out.

And then...end of August...the glorious beach trip to the south of France w/ Katy & Kristin!

Two glorious days lounging on a beach chair and wading in the water.  And more importantly, Raphael.

It was a good summer.