I only took 100 pictures total of both Paris and the town of Cabourg in Normandy. That’s all, for a whole entire week. I was really depressed whenever I saw gangs of tourists, armed with their cameras and brochures, taking snapshots and posing in front of every single monument. It was like a race to see as many things as they could and take pictures to prove that they’d been there. I used to have that same feeling, but not anymore.
I stayed with my former exchange student Alicia and spent a wonderful week just relaxing with a friend. I saw some, but not all, of Paris and learned more new aspects of French culture and life. We made crepes (and also grilled cheese, chicken strips, sugar cookies…), read many books in the “Asterix” series, went to Parisian pet shops, had drinks at a sidewalk cafe, relaxed on the beach in Normandy, went on bike rides through town, played French board games I’d never heard of, and watched “Lost” in French. There was no pressure to see every single tourist attraction (though of course we did see Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Versailles… but not the Louvre!).
It was just so refreshing to HANG OUT and not be a tourist every moment of the day. I feel like I’ve been doing that every day of the past four months. I love traveling but that’s been the primary hobby of a very tiny handful of hobbies I’ve been able to enjoy for that whole time period. I miss all the other things I like (and the people!). If I was trapped inside of a bakery for four months, I’d probably end up getting tired of baking cookies at some point (though that’s hard to imagine right now since I sit here everyday looking at foodgawker.com, my hands aching for baking utensils and ingredients and a reasonable oven). The point being – I’m ready to come home, not be a tourist, live in a familiar culture, and return to my normal “boring” life.
I’m sorry I didn’t take many pictures, and the ones I have I’m not sharing. I’m just done and none of the pictures are very interesting because I put no effort into it. Not to sound really cheesy but my memories are enough; I didn’t feel the need to take pictures and record everything I did. Besides, I know I’ll be back and I’m sure that I’ll then have the desire to take pictures. Northern France has stolen my heart from the South – I don’t know what it is, but for some reason it’s so much better. You’ve all seen pictures of Paris; it truly is that beautiful and magical. Walking along the Seine there are people selling vintage maps, old books, 10 cent postcards (CHEAP!), baguette magnets – what more could I have asked for? Trying my first macaroon (one raspberry, one green apple by the way)! Fantastically dressed males (fantastic as in perfect)! Girls in skirts riding cool old bikes (I want to be them)! And an unfathomable amount of art and history!
Now, I do have something for you. Alicia and her beautiful family are the nicest people in France (maybe Europe) and took me out to dinner – once in Paris and once in Caen (as well as serving me delicious home cooked meals the other nights of the week). Our dinners were real French dinners – a bottle of wine, a carafe of Evian water, bottomless baskets of bread, a waiter that never talked to you besides taking your order, the whole thing lasting a minimum of 3 hours, and each person ordering their own appetizer followed by an entree and a dessert. You can eat a lot more food when your dinner lasts for that long. I loved every minute of it (which is weird because I am usually a person to eat quickly and move on to the next thing). Everything I tasted was out of this world and reading through the menu with all its exotic combinations and ideas was an experience in itself. I did manage to take pictures of all of these dishes. 😉
Gros escargots de Bourgogne – I finally did it, and they were really quite good. Just don’t look at them because then you can recognize the snail shape/body parts…
Saumon de Norvege avec les pommes de terre et creme roquette – I will only make my mashed potatoes with olive oil from this day forward, and I will try really hard to figure out how to make that sauce (it’s from some sort of lettuce leaf).
Steak tartare et frites – Alicia’s dinner but I tried a bite. For those of you who don’t know, that’s completely 100% uncooked ground beef mixed with some flavorings. Texture is bizarre (kinda like mashed potatoes!), but it’s not awful. And I didn’t die from eating raw meat.
Ile flottante – Again, Alicia’s dessert but I tried a bite. This is an “island” of meringue “floating” on vanilla/banana custard (hence the name), and sprinkled with almonds.
Gazpacho de fruits rouge avec petit pains d’epice et creme vanille – Genius idea. So simple and at the same time DIVINE. Just a cold “soup” of red fruits (strawberries, raspberries, etc) with spice bread “croutons” and a vanilla cream in the middle. This is #1 on the to-make-at-home list.
And now for French dinner #2:
Alicia’s and I didn’t write down what this was! But the salmon was just cooked on the top, the rest was raw and – guess what – REALLY GOOD.
Soupe glacee Parmentier et langoustines roti – My appetizer. A cold potato soup with a fresh chive cheese and “langoustines” which Wikipedia tells me is a type of prawn.
Brochettes gambas et rouget avec tagliatelles legumes – Skewers of shrimp and a red fish with shredded vegetables on the side. That’s a lemon foam on top.
Feuille a feuille citron vert et fruits rouge – OH MON DIEU. I changed my mind upon seeing this again – this is now top of the things-to-make-at-home list. Thin sheets made of cooked sugar and fruit pulp, topped with a vanilla-lime flavored sorbet/custard type goodness, and slices of strawberries. Accompanied with a “red fruits” sorbet. Best dessert I’ve eaten in Europe, hands down.
Expect variations on these meals when I get home.
*Also had lunch at McDonald’s one day. My first time this trip. I got the “1955 Special Edition Burger” which is apparently supposed to mimic some burger that McDonald’s originally had? With grilled onions and barbecue sauce and a way too salty meat patty? And I love, absolutely love, how every country has different McFlurry flavors. Trying every single one of them has been added to my life to-do list. I had the “Daim” flavor (caramelized toffee-type candy?), but they also had M&M peanut and Kit-Kat (I hear they have Rolo flavored in Spain… can’t believe I missed that!!!).
**And I now have the ability to try non-supermarket, non-typical American cheese. Though I still probably will not like them (can’t live without goat cheese though; will eat that every day of the week, with every meal). I tried Roquefort, which was WAY WAY too much “smelly cheese” for me. And the weirdest one was “taupinette.” It looks like this: