Monday, October 29, 2007

Interesting things I've eaten lately.

Because I haven't even tried to load my Mont-St-Michel photos onto my computer yet, I am here to write a little something that doesn't require pictures. I was sitting down waiting for the door to open to one of my classrooms this week when I pulled out a pen and paper and started writing a list. So here it is:

Gratin Dauphinois, which is a fantastic version of potatoes au gratin with crème fraiche, emmenthal cheese and spices which I unfortunately don't remember. And it was homemade by M Riey.

Fennel. I ate fennel as a vegetable. Also prepared by Monsieur Riey, this was the Florence (or sweet) variety as opposed to the fennel usually used as an herb. I was unaware that sweet fennel existed, but I was happy to find out that it is tasty.

Tea. Okay, that's not terribly interesting, but I bought a cuppa from a vending machine (the French have very high-class vending machines), on which I pushed the 'thé fort citron' button, but forgot to reset the sugar to nothing. So, what I ended up drinking tasted like a warm, liquid lemon drop. I think it was that lovely liquid lemon drop that inspired this list, in fact. I had another the following day (hey, it was cold outside).

A quarter roasted chicken. The only real reason this is an interesting dish is because I eat it regularly, whether in a Parisian café or a down-home American restaurant. And that's because it's almost always fantastic. In this case, it was in a little restaurant with a view of the English Channel in Mont-St-Michel. It was especially good this time because it was served with fries, and because it was a nice warm meal and a cold day.

Bounty. It would appear that in France Mounds candy bars are called Bounty. If it isn't the same exact candy bar, it's really darn close. Kind of like how a Mars bar is like a Milky Way in the US.

Uncle Ben's Curry, out of a jar. Yes, Uncle Ben makes curry. Hey!- it goes with rice, and that IS his specialty. I didn't have any chicken, but I did manage to boil some rice to go with. Somehow, it didn't taste at all like the rice I remember making in my now-defunct rice maker. When I get a new apartment back in the States, a rice cooker will be the first thing I buy.

Shark fin soup and Thai beer. I went to the Parisian version of Chinatown (which is kind of a joke next to the one in New York), and had a nice dinner with friends on Saturday. Christina misses her dad's cooking, especially the shark fin soup, so we had a little of that. I found that it tasted a little like gravy. It was almost thick and a little oily, sort of like egg-drop soup, except brown. The beer from Thailand was a nice light lager that tasted a lot like my American beer of choice, Bud Light.

That is, of course, only a part of my diet here in France. I eat a lot of yogurt for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, fruit for dessert. Tonight I'm gonna try to makes something with lentils, spinach, rice and shredded emmenthal cheese. With a hotplate and a microwave, we'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A little behind

The day before classes started (that's a little over two weeks ago now; sorry about that) I went to a concert. I hadn't heard of the band (the New Pornographers) but a bunch of people I know here were going, so I went too. The band is originally Canadian, but apparently some of them live in NYC now.
The concert was really nice. It started out with a French band that sang in English, then a French woman all by her lonesome who also sang in English, and who was incredibly nervous. The amazing thing was that people were sitting on the floor during these two acts, and when the songstress came on, some of the crowd hushed those who were talking. Absolute silence. It was really something I had never seen before at a concert.
And then the rocking started. And the jokes about French (since the group was Canadian and those Canucks have a special relationship with the French language). It was a blast. I also don't believe I have been so sober at a concert since I turned 21.

And then school started. And everything's going fine, except that I'm stressed out, but what's new there?

I have been trying to take advantage of the lovely city in which I live, so I took a stroll on lovely day with some friends... through a cemetery. Well, to be specific, Père Lachaise Cemetery, where Jim Morrison is entombed. It's a beautiful place to take a stroll, and there are some influential people resting there... for all eternity, or at least until their lease is up.

I went to see Edith Piaf's grave, which I don't think I saw the other times I've been there. I'm sure I was prompted this time by the fact that I saw the bio-pic of her earlier this year, and I was very moved. If you haven't seen La Vie en Rose, I highly recommend it.

I also took a lovely stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens. I actually took a look around the place this time, instead of just jogging through it. I noticed how nice the plants looked, even though it was getting cold. And the palace is nice too.

On the first Sunday of every month, the national museums in France are free. Woohoo! So, the first Sunday of October, I went with Caitlyn to the Centre Pompidou and saw some interesting modern art (read interesting as either odd or actually intriguing). There was also a nice view of the sunset from the top floor of the center. It was a nice afternoon followed by dinner at a fantastic Indian restaurant that we found near the museum. I'm guessing that we will be returning to eat there again, since that was our second time there.

This is one of the weird ones.

Check out this room.

I guess what I liked most was that there were so many 'interactive' displays. Videos, special rooms to enter, etc. were everywhere. Very cool.

And then there was the sunset. It was a very nice view, but unfortunately the windows got in the way of a good shot.

From Paris, Fall 2007

So, check out the other pictures in my Picasa album.

I also went to the Museum of Romantic Life, which is a museum mostly dedicated to George Sand and her entourage. There were jewelry and other artifacts that belonged to Ms. Sand, Chopin, and her children. There were portraits of George and her family, and drawings/ paintings done by George and her family. It was all set in a lovely little house with songs by Chopin playing quietly in the background. Very quaint. And of course romantic. Unfortunately, no pics of this one. For some reason, I didn't feel that it was the kind of place where one should take pictures. Maybe it was just that all the older people there weren't taking pictures, but that tends to be the case with French people. They are more interested in what is going on than taking pictures of it. But, then again, they can just visit again some time soon- they live here. So, I reserve my right to take pictures of whatever whenever, even sometimes when there is a sign saying not to. Then I just ask first.

Until later...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Week Off

Well, I had a week off before starting classes, and I just spent a lot of time walking. I didn't have my camera with me much of the time, but I did snap a shot or two with the good ole camera phone.

I registered on Wednesday, and afterwards I walked all the way from Rue Censier to the Opéra Garnier - which is a long walk, I assure you.

View Larger Map

During my walk, I went past some fountains and sculpture on the boulevard leading up to the Luxembourg Gardens.

In other cities, this would have just been some green space, a median with bushes or trees to make it look pretty. But I'm in Paris; so here, there's art in the streets.

I also spent some time in the same area (or at least the part North of the Seine - which is la rive droite, for those of you not in the know on Parisian geographical terminology) when I spent some time with a Parisian woman I met who was interested in practicing her English in exchange for French conversation practice for me. We visited the Palais Royal, which I had never seen on the inside. There's a large garden and a sculpture that takes up a whole courtyard.

I only got out to jog twice during that week; first it was too cold to go out, then it rained non-stop for like three days. The weather is not so good at the moment either, though there is a little bit of sunshine out there today. During my jog, I took a moment to sit and rest and observe; what I saw was a pigeon who seemed to really be looking for something. I stayed long enough to see that in fact, that pigeon was looking for some grub, possibly literally - it was looking for worms. And it actually found one while I was watching it. What a hard little worker; it just wouldn't give up.

From Paris, Fall 2007

The most important thing about that week off was getting scheduled for classes, but I didn't really think that was noteworthy enough in a visual documentation sort of way, so no pictures. So, finally I know what classes I'm taking this fall - contemporary narrative fiction, medieval poetry with a focus on François Villon and Grammaire du texte (which is, obviously, a grammar class, but it's one that focuses on how grammar effects content). I'm attending the University of Paris III, otherwise known as La Sorbonne Nouvelle, and my grammar course is at the Sorbonne. So, I am actually attending classes in the Latin Quarter. Centuries worth of students have studied there, and now, I am too. Lucky me.