Thursday, February 17, 2011

Le Jour de la Saint-Valentin

While Dustin was at work on Valentine's Day, I set out to find the perfect pastry to share for dessert that evening.  I found myself at Lenotre, salivating over the beautiful display of Valentine's Day goodies in the window.  Every time I walk by this shop, I tell myself that one day I will buy something. But the price tag on these yummy treats had discouraged me up until this point.  Since it was Valentine's Day, I decided it was a special enough occasion to splurge. 

The bag our pastry came in.

The box our pastry was in.

The pastry I picked out!  YUMM!!

When Dustin got home from work, we exchanged cards and then used a sharpie to write our names on a padlock.  There is a bridge in Paris, Pont des Arts, where couples have attached  padlocks all over the bridge.  There are HUNDREDS (maybe thousands?) of them - all different shapes, colors, and sizes.  Some have been elaborately engraved, others don't have anything written on them at all.  The padlocks symbolize the undying love of the couple who placed the lock on the bridge.  We decided that this was a good night to add our own lock to the bridge.

Pont des Arts

Right before we placed our lock on the bridge.

After you attach your lock, you are supposed to hurl your key into the Seine.  Because of several police officers nearby, we decided to casually drop the key instead.  :)

We walked home from the bridge, both commenting that it was pretty amazing to have the opportunity to spend Valentine's Day in Paris.  The memories we are making are truly unbelievable!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cooking with Sabine

Last weekend, Dustin and I spent Saturday evening cooking with Sabine (Dustin's boss).  She has been so helpful and kind to us as we have made the transition to French life.  When she found out that I wanted to learn more about French cooking (especially shopping for the food at all of the little shops), she invited us over for a lesson!

We arrived at her apartment around 5:00 and spent the next hour and a half shopping for the ingredients we would need to make a traditional French meal.  We started at the butcher.  I was really nervous because Sabine told me that I was going to do all of the talking.  She coached me on what to say and how to say it.  As we waited in line, I repeated the phrase over and over in my head...Je voudrais un kilo et demi de veau pour faire de la blanquette.  I was asking for a kilo and a half of veal to make a veal stew.  If you tell the butcher what you are making, then he will prepare the meat for the exact dish. 

So, I got up to the counter and Sabine let the butcher know that I was learning French and was going to practice on him.  He seemed to really get a kick out of the whole experience and even tried to practice some English on me.  I said my line and got the meat without a problem!  He even threw in a free gift (un cadeau) of a saucisson for my efforts.  A saucisson is a type of dried sausage that you slice and often eat with bread and butter.

Before we left the butcher, Sabine took the time to explain all the different types of meat in the case and what you could cook with them.  The butcher is definitely less intimidating than I thought - especially once someone has explained it to you!

Next, we were off to the wine shop.  Again, I had to do the talking.  I said...Bonjour Monsieur!  Je voudrais un vin pour faire de la blanquette et pour boire.  I wanted a wine for making veal stew, but that would also be good for drinking.  The man working at the shop was very knowledgeable and knew exactly what kind of wine would be best.  We bought the wine and off we went!

Our next stop was to a produce stand.  We bought onions (oignons), a leek (poireau), garlic (l'ail), carrots (carottes), mushrooms (champignons), lemons (citrons), and apples (pommes).

From there we went to the supermarket for a pastry shell, crème fraîche, and eggs (oeufs)While at the supermarket, Sabine explained the difference in the types of creams, milks, and other products.  It was extremely helpful!

We exited the supermarket and went to the fromagerie to buy a couple of cheeses for the evening.  Our final stop was at the boulangerie for a baguette.  Now it was time to head back to her apartment for cooking!

We started by chopping all of the vegetables for the stew.  Dustin got the fun job of cutting up the onions.  He cried the entire time.  :)

Next, we prepared dessert - an apple tart.

Once everything was cooking, it was time to enjoy our frommage and saucisson.

We served the stew over rice.

The finished product!  DELICIOUS!

Thanks to Sabine for all of her help and the wonderful evening of cooking!  I am definitely feeling much more confident about going to the butcher and all of the specialty shops.  We decided that another lesson is in order for the future...maybe rabbit?  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Statue of Liberty in Paris

From "The Statue of Liberty Revisited"
edited by Wilton S. Dillon, 1994, page 155:

On July 4, 1889 the American community in Paris offered the French people a gift of a bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty; it still stands now, on an island in the Seine River, downstream from the Eiffel Tower. In a symbolic sense, this recently restored American gift closes the circle of gift giving that was launched by the French in the 1860's with the gift of Miss Liberty. In a deeper sense, though, the American replica in Paris serves to extend and strenthen the chain of reciprocity between the two peoples that has existed since before the founding of the American Republic and that promises to continue well into the future.

This magnificent exchange of gifts illustrates a declaration delivered by French ambassador Jule J. Jusserand on the occasion of the 1916 ceremony at which Liberty's torch was first lighted with electricity: "Not to a man, not to a nation, the statue was raised. It was raised to an idea - an idea greater than France or the United States: the idea of Liberty."


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust...

Yes, that's right.  I have conquered another Parisian fear.  The dreaded coiffeuse (hairdresser).  It is always a little scary to be in a position where you have to find someone new to cut your hair.  Is this person going to send me out the door looking like a new and improved version of me?  Or will I leave wanting to go through the next few months with a paper bag on my head?  The mental image of the latter has had me avoiding Parisian salons since my arrival in July.

But today, I woke up and was just plain annoyed by my hair.  I was tired of the pony tail that was becoming my go-to look.  I was tired of spending forever each morning on drying, straightening, curling, etc...only to have my hair return to its flat, lifeless look the second I stepped out of the door.  I was determined that I would fix the situation, and I would fix it TODAY!

And then reality hit me.  How am I supposed to explain the way I want my hair cut?  What if they ask me a whole bunch of questions?  I heard you have to tip the person who shampoos you and the person who cuts your much am I supposed to give them?  Do I need an appointment, or can I just walk in?  AHHHHHHHH!!  My questions and subsequent anxiety began to get the best of me. 

So I did what I always do when I am anxious.  I GOOGLE.  Google can solve all problems, right?  I started with googling:  shoulder length hair styles.  I emerged from that search with a picture of a cute cut that I could take with me to the salon.  Next:  tipping in French hair salons.  From that search, I learned that a 5-10 euro tip was appropriate for the person cutting my hair, and a couple euros would be plenty for the shampoo girl.  Finally, I googled:  French phrases for the salon.  Believe it or not, I found a very helpful page with a lot of advice for getting what you want in a French salon. 

Now I was armed and ready.  All I needed was the actual salon.  There are 5 or 6 in my neighborhood that I walk by daily, so I decided those were a good place to start.  The salons all post their prices on the windows, so I meandered by each of them as nonchalantly as possible to check them out.  I did not want to draw attention to myself.

I spent 20 minutes going up and down my street, passing the salons each time.  For the life of me, I could not get up the nerve to go inside.  The salons were all  Shiny.  Glam.  And yes, that sounds exciting, but it is also quite intimidating.  I couldn't bring myself to just open up the door and blurt out my memorized phrases. 

That's when I decided I needed a different type of salon.  One with more of a "Steel Magnolias" feel.  You know?  One where I could develop a personal relationship with the person who cuts my hair.  One where they would remember my name and look happy that I had come back.  Was a place like this possible in Paris?

At that moment, I noticed a small hair salon down a side street.  I was going to just casually walk buy and try to get a glimpse.  As I passed the store, I could tell it was much more my style.  It was nice, but didn't have the intimidation factor of the chain salons on the main drag.  Before I even knew what was happening, I realized I had walked straight to the door and was beginning to open it.  No turning back now!

As soon as I entered the salon, I was greeted very quickly with, "Bonjour Madame!" and then someone took my coat.  I explained to the girl who greeted me (IN FRENCH!!) that I wanted a cut like the one in the picture I brought.  And she UNDERSTOOD me!  She took me right back and started shampooing me.  There were a few questions I didn't understand, so she switched to English (YES YES YES!). 

When she finished, she introduced me to Isabelle, who was going to cut my hair.  Isabelle was WONDERFUL!  We spoke a mixture of French and English...probably more English than French (even though she told me her English wasn't good...not true).  She gave me a great cut and I even remembered to tip both gals.  I have an appointment to go back to see her in 2 months!  VICTORY IS MINE!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Few Hours in Egypt

Dustin and I had been planning a trip to Egypt this February.  In light of recent events, we decided it would be best not to go.  Instead, we spent a few hours perusing the Ancient Egypt wing of the Louvre.  We figured a little Egypt was better than no Egypt at all!  I have always been fascinated by ancient Egypt, so this collection of amazing artwork did not disappoint!  My pictures are not necessarily of famous pieces, just some of my favorites!

This sphinx greets you at the top of a set of stairs as you enter the ancient Egypt wing.  It is circa 2600 BC!

 The cat was a sacred and respected animal in ancient Egypt.  Cats were treated like gods...and if you killed one (even accidentally) you were sentenced to death.

One of the better known pieces of art in the Egyptian wing.
Horus - dates somewhere between 1069-664 BC

 The feet I am next to were originally part of a colossus of a king - the statue was about 8 meters tall!

These are cat mummies...seriously.  Gross.

The Louvre is stunning at night!

We ended our evening at a cute bistro just a few blocks from our apartment (not Egyptian, but quite good!).