Monday, December 21, 2009

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

There's really nothing like spicing up a regular old Saturday lunch with this easy Baked Eggplant Parmesan from Martha Stewart! A few notes about the recipe. I halved this recipe to serve 4 people and found that my eggplant cooked in 25 minutes to a beautiful golden brown on both sides without flipping it over or cooking it for the additional 20-25 min recommended. Interestingly enough, I still used the same amount of tomato sauce!

I made my own tomato sauce, and why not? It's so easy! Plucked 6 or 7 leaves of basil and combined it with 6 quartered roma tomatoes and chopped garlic to create a fresh, chunky tomato sauce in the food processor. Be sure to season with salt and pepper! It's funny how simple and yet essential are salt and pepper.

A final note... I didn't have breadcrumbs, but toss a few cups of cornflakes in the food processor and you're ready to go. I guess I have ONE more thing to say. There was a certain lack of dried herbs in my parents' pantry, but luckily I had a bottle I brought back from Paris of Herbes de Provence, and that works just fine as a substitute in this recipe!

"round" eggplant slices
(I thought I was making something else and had started cutting the other way first)

water+egg bath use before these babies dive into a bowl of seasoned breadcrumbs

arrange the slices on a tray lined with greased parchment

13x9 casserole dish filled with this beautiful, red sauce
(fresh tomato puree, fresh basil, garlic, sea salt, pepper)

end result, plated on a bed of pasta

You'll notice I didn't use angel hair, but honestly I prefer it with eggplant parmesan. But there are just times when you just have to tell yourself "I WILL ONLY USE WHAT IS ALREADY IN MY KITCHEN!" And so it goes!

Monday, November 30, 2009

La vie en chocolat

I literally dreamed of chocolate landscapes. So intricate, so inviting! From chocolate mulch to chocolate trees and bushes. It was magnificent! What pleasant tricks my mind plays on me at night! I went to sleep thinking about keeping will power this holiday season by pawning off on everyone else all that I bake. Talk about sweet dreams! Have you ever dreamed in chocolate?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Festival of Fennel at Sagra

1610 San Antonio St Austin, TX 78701
(512) 535-5988

A couple of Sundays ago, my friend Rachel and I decided to go on a girly date for dinner! Whilst trying to find a cozy place to catch up on our busy semester, I came across a local event coming up at Sagra (keeping tabs on food and art events happening in Austin is a much enjoyed pastime of mine). To my surprise, although it makes perfect sense, Sagra hosts a food festival twice a year where they offer a free dinner, fixed menu of course, to celebrate some produce of the season.

An excerpt form Wikipedia reads:

"A sagra is often dedicated to some specific local food, and the name of the sagra includes that food; the array of gastronomic specialties covered across Italy is amazing: for example, we find a Sagra della Rana (frog) at Casteldilago near Arrone, a Sagra della Cipolla (onion) at Cannara, a Sagra della Melanzana ripiena (stuffed eggplant) at Savona, a Sagra della Polenta at Perticara di Novafeltria, and so on. Among the most common sagre are those celebrating olive oil, wine, pasta and pastry of various kinds, chestnuts, and cheese."

I found out just in time to take Rachel to Sagra's Fennel Festival. Naturally, the reservations had filled up days in advance, but thankfully Sagra kept their back patio open to first come, first serve. We came about 30 minutes early and secured ourselves a lovely table out back on the covered patio, sheltered from the rain.

Dinner circa 4pm after a glass of wine at the bar...

Mixed green salad
fennel pollen, orange and fennel

Fennel Gratinati
layers of fennel and potato baked with cheese

mussels, shrimp, squid, clams and fish in a “little broth” of fennel, saffron and tomatoes
grilled sourdough bread

Apple Fennel Crostata (not included in the free dinner)

The entire meal was light, colorful, and pleasant. Sagra did not have a vegetarian option for the main dish, but I was able to enjoy the other 3 fennel-filled plates. The salad's citrus dressing complemented the fennel well, and the dessert, not overly sweet, had neat layers of apple and fennel a nice variation on the traditional apple pie. The white cheddar, potato, and fennel made a perfect combination...both were sliced thin and cooked till tender. Rachel especially like the golden crust of hardened cheese on top. Tasty, but I preferred the cream sauce within. Rachel did not care too much for the brodetto, though it smelled delicious and looked appetizing. However, she appeared to be frightened of shellfish in general and mostly used the broth as a dipping sauce for her bread. :)

If you'd like to send yourself on a similar fennel adventure, you can check out these tips from my bff Martha on selecting, preparing, and storing fennel: CLICK HERE
I was excited read some nutritional information on fennel. Fennel has very low glycemic index, which I try to be conscious of when preparing dinner for my mother.

I have since been back for brunch with some other friends and enjoyed Sagra again. We split the Polenta bowl, Rustic French Toast, and Steak Hash. I love ordering family style especially for brunch since I'm always missing Papa's Sunday breakfast when away from home. Andrew and I cherished the polenta bowl and eggs. Karina didn't touch it. She finds the texture of soft polenta unpleasant. I love polenta in all forms, but I think Andrew's spicy cheddar cheese broccoli and grits over poached eggs could rival it!! I feel like so many people settle for terribly ordinary and quite frankly soggy French toast, but I would definitely go back for Sagra's rendition, crisp and sweet!

I can't find any brunch pictures so I'll leave you with the menu. Pictures could very well turn up on my SLR which is currently accompanying my sister to her pedicure. On a brighter note, excitement for Thanksgiving has reached its height. Preparation starts tonight with some gnudi dumpling dough. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Oh how you fill me up butternut squash and don't let me down or mess me around

I got together this week with some buddies I've had since the beginning of college. We call ourselves "The Blobby" after many nights of debauchery and very little studying in and around the Blanton Lobby, a study lounge in our residence hall. We celebrated Thanksgiving a week early with a potluck that sent us in such a dizzy food coma: sweet potatoes, green been casserole, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, deviled eggs, sangria, turkey, pumpkin mousse, steak, and more!

I brought a new dish I'd never made before: Scalloped Butternut Squash and Yukon Gold Potatoes. I followed a recipe I found on Epicurious with a few alterations. As a "starving" college student in love with food, I hardly have all the necessary kitchen tools I wish I had. (Thank God it's the season of giving. I have a tendency to accumulate cooking supplies around this time of the year). Anyway, I most certainly lacked a potato slicer so you can imagine the pain and suffering I went through in thinly slicing raw butternut squash by hand!

Thin slices is really the key to a successful scalloped dish. You want to achieve a tender bite, not too mushy or too firm.

Butter the pan well so you don't struggle in serving.
I decided to mix up the recipe and use half potato and half butternut squash. I think it really helped in preventing that heavy Oh God I ate too much feeling for my friends.
I enjoyed this recipe because of its buttery goodness, and do I need to mention how much I like thyme? I would, however, have perhaps used another cheese. The grated block of mild cheddar didn't melt into a creamy sauce associated with scalloped potatoes, but rather gave the consistency of cheese on a slice of pizza. The recipe suggests discarding the fresh thyme used to flavor the cream, but I recommend pulling off the leaves and sprinkling them on the top layer of squash just to give a little contrast.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I eat, You eat, We all eat for Meals-on-Wheels!

Everytime you go out to eat until November 30, review your meal online and Dishola will match it with Meals-on-Wheels!!

dish-for-dish challenge!

here's how it works

  1. You write a dish review on Dishola
  2. We donate a dish to Meals on Wheels & More
  3. Someone gets a warm meal thanks to you!
Sponsored by Dishola and Whole Foods Market

Thanksgiving Sneakpeak

You've probably heard me say I wish Christmas lasted all year long (I have been found watching ELF smack-dab in the middle of the summer), and so it must be no surprise I share the same affection for Thanksgiving. Honestly a holiday to reflect on the good times over a festive meal with loved ones should come around more often. I'd be pleased with a similar feast to celebrate each season.

I am thrilled to attend three Thanksgiving potlucks prior to my family's own Beastless Feast 2009, which of course gives me ample opportunity to test ideas on my friends. I could not imagine sending myself unarmed to my parents' home to prepare a dinner for their critical palates. I love my family dearly, but we are all a bunch of hungry, hard to please fools spoiled by our mothers' good cooking.

Anyway, I promise to catch you up on all of the "coming-soons" below, but first let me delight you with a sneak peak of the draft menu I've assembled from a few sources:
- the three latest issues of Bon Appétit
- American Way Magazine
(Papa pulled one from the airplane on one of weekly trips to Bloomington, IL.. I love their online version.. Papa flipped through his hard copy, while I browsed the interactive pdf!)
- Whole Foods flagship store Thanksgiving tasting (gave inspiration for the crostini)
- Times Online UK
- Primizie (One of my favorite dishes in Austin is Primizie's gnocchi, I'm talking I almost licked my plate clean... With my parents in Dallas, I hoped to create a similar version to share with them)
-Recipezaar (I don't usually trust this site, but wanted to use to give me some basic direction)

You'll notice a few notes throughout the menu. I emailed this draft menu to my parents because when it comes to Thanksgiving, everyone has to get a say on the menu!

LE MENU THANKSGIVING : another Vegetarian celebration of food and wine!

Crostini w/ Fig Spread and Brie

Savory Bread Pudding w/ Mushrooms
Butternut Squash & Cheddar Bread Pudding

Winter Greens & Shitake
Broccolini w/ smoked paprika & Almonds
Smashed Rutabagas w/ ginger roasted pears
Cranberry Sauce
Sage Potato Gnocchi w/ Chanterelle Mushrooms, Roasted Sweet Corn
Scalloped Potatoes and Fennel
Swiss Chard Ricotta Gnudi with Fall Mushrooms
Grilled Asparagus with Sesame Citrus Sauce

olive bread (an incredible olive loaf available at Tom Thumbs near our home.. brand to be mentioned upon recall... even I need a break sometimes!)
Chile cornbread
Fresh Cornbread w/ basil

Harvest Pear Crisp
Apple Goat Cheese Honey Tart
Lemon Tart

Pommeau (french apple wine) - first course
Pinot Grigio - 2nd course
Vin Santo (red wine from Santorini) - 3rd course.. For now I still feel a white wine goes best with the dessert. Papa is eager to open this bottle, however. Mother would be saddened without something to emulate her beloved apple pie.. Oh what a toss-up! Perhaps Papa will need to wait till I make something chocolatey later in the week.
Le Chocolat l'Africain a recipe from Michael Turback's "Hot Chocolate"

P.S. Did I mention I'm still mourning the loss of Gourmet magazine? Depression!

Coming Soon

Dining out in Austin:
Joe DiMaggio's Italian Chophouse- happy hour
Blue Dahlia Cafe - dinner
Primizie - brunch and dinner
Sagra - brunch and fennel festival
Thai Passion Lunch buffet

From my kitchen:
Pumpkin brownies
Scalloped Butternut Squash

Guest chef prepares dinner!

Thanksgiving dinner

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Can't kick butt let alone make coffee

Kick Butt Coffee
4600 Guadalupe a
t the Triangle, Austin, Tx

Simply put, Kick Butt Coffee sucks. The terrible lighting and an unimpressive food selection is enough to send anyone that enters running. How I managed not to leave immediately is truly a wonder. You couldn't possibly dream of studying inside this coffee shop... Not with the
awkward music performance by self-deprecating, absent-minded artist who couldn't remember where his instrument was let alone what note to play next. He was from out of town and I hope they've politely encouraged him to return from whence he came.

I believe I stayed because I was forced to kill a bit of time after dinner and before pub trivia at The Flying Saucer later that evening. I highly recommend trivia night! But back to Kick Butt Coffee. I don't believe anyone could possibly enjoy a lukewarm drink of any kind let alone an iced coffee that is so! Here I am sitting with a friend with no coffee to enjoy and no hope of studying in the dark (and it was dark long before the performer arrived) or drowning out the music.

To add to the unpleasantries of the place, you will find there is no mirror in the bathroom, and yet a TV. Oh yes, and as you may have noticed on the website an overall alarming and just godawful Chuck Norris theme. My dear friend, Chuck Norris and coffee do not blend well together. Indeed I was never able to reduce my cognitive dissonance before leaving. Naturally I have no intention of returning to this terrible excuse of a cafe.

Photo: The Daily Texan
Here you will find a few notes from The Daily Texan on Kick Butt Coffee.. I find their grade B entirely too high.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Ooh La La: How to be Infuriatingly French"

Current Location: Slouched on the couch
Currently Listening: Asher Roth - I Love College
Weather: Sunnny sun sun sunnny

For my birthday, YES I'm FINALLY TWENTY ONE!!!!!!!, Kristina got me a box of de-lish Leonidas chocolates and a funny book called "Ooh La La: How to be Infuriatingly French." After reading it I decided to come up with my own such how-to-guide.

Step 1: Always keep the mood lighting know just in case.
Step 2: It's customary to observe "les neighbors" through their windows and pretty much any person walking down the street.
Step 3: Shop at Picard: the frozen only grocery store and pick up things like puree peas, escalopes de fois gras, and quartered figs.
Step 4: Eat hazelnuts in everything, and consume exorbitant amounts of nutella
Step 5: Put every cheese but mozzarella on your pizza.
Step 6: Store sugar in milk cartons.
Step 7: Have tiny ass kitchens so that when you open the fridge your butt touches the back wall. Oh and eat lots of confiture!
Step 8: Always buy belgian chocolate.
Step 9: Showcase all eccentricities especially in the window displays of your family shop
Step 10: Don't shower often.
Step 11: Learn traditional dance moves in your weekly African dance class.
Step 12: Never buy books in English or speak English for that matter unless a French-speaking American tries to speak to you in French.
Step 13: Alway order cidre with your meal and drink it from a a cat. Michael Rosenthal would approve.
Step 14: Drink on the hour every hour!
Step 15: Revere French culture and lovingly tease Sarkozy
Step 16: Plaster your apartment with old, dark paintings that have been passed down in the family
Step 17: Bump the cars behind you in attempting to parallel park.
Step 18: Ladies always cover their shoulders and never wear silly American things like flip flops.
Step 19: Never go to church
Step 20: Spend summer holidays at the family chateau
Step 21: Since the French rarely leave France the only way to show kids some wildlife is at the city zoo.
Step 22: Lure your gay jewish boyfriend to Bois de Vincennes for a romantic boat ride.
Step 23: Flambee everything with Grand Marnier
Step 24: Eat crepes and gaufres daily without gaining a single pound.
Step 25: Shake that laffy taffy (because you secretly listen to American rap, but are behind about 2 years)
Step 6: Pucker up for PDA. French kissing in public is mandatory!
Step 27: Own a menswear shop in the Marais if you want to profit off all the bar mitzvahs
Step 28: Let old things fall apart. And rename streets every block.
Step 29: Never drink water in public. Wine or espresso only.
Step 30: Be a cute gay couple.
Step 31: Never get worked up about shops closing at 6pm.
Step 32: Take romantic strolls through the Marais with your same sex significant other.
Step 33: Buy over priced clothes from small boutiques that carry only 6 articles of clothing
Step 34: Always sport a one piece pant suit
Step 35: Be excessively green in terms of recycling but leave cigarette butts everywhere.
Step 36: Eat strange things like goose liver.
Step 37: Have a nice ass from walking up all those stairs since elevator technology never made it to France

For the complete picture by picture guide, check out the Facebook album I made.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I miss wearing t-shirts...

Location: At ze kitchen table
Currently Listening: Eric Pridz - Pjano
Weather: Decent. A little cold but I managed to shop the Bastille fresh market in less than pants. At least I didn't get pooped on by pidgeon. .aka poor Laura.

One thing I didn't manage to bring is a single t-shirt to Paris! What was I thinking?! You can't go out in public in t-shirts, but seriously I end up wearing crazy things in the comfort of my apartment because I didn't bring any "loungewear." Hahah it's kinda like when you see all the guys at school wearing their nice button ups and slacks and you know it must be laundry day.

Well, I FINALLY bought my ticket to Greece to meet up Rachel this May. For the longest time I only had a ticket leaving Greece to get back to Paris in time to catch my flight back to the states. (YAY can't wait to be home!) You aren't going to believe what crazy adventure my friend Luiza and I have in store for ourselves to get to Athens cheaply.

So first we have to bus out to some little town outside of Paris called Beauvais and catch a Ryan Air flight to Venice. We'll stay the night and a day there and check out the city, and then wake up super early the next day to get to the port to catch a Minoan Line ferry cruise called Ikarus Palace to the Greek island Corfu. Guess how long's the cruise. TWENTY FOUR HOURS. Haha and we bought deck accommodation tickets, which basically means we stay awake all night and roam the public lounges with our bags on our backs. We found out my friend from Milan, Alan, who apparently did this once, that if we run on the cruise in front of the herd of deck ticket holders we can claim some space behind a staircase where the crew members won't catch us sleeping. We didn't realize that even in May it will still be cold out at sea so it's not exactly fun being up on the deck at night. Woops, missed that memo. I hope they sell espresso on that boat....... Well after one crazy night on that cruise we make it to Corfu where we'll spend a few days soakin' up the sun on the island. Then we'll have to take a night ferry to this Greek port city Patras and then take the subway to some other city where we can catch a train to Athens. Oh God, got to love budget travel. :) I think the one problem with budget travel is that it's usually a catastrophe. Then I feel like the world owes me something, and I end up spending money to make up for it. Haha. Okay well, hopefully I can stay sane all the way to Athens on my Skippy Jar compliments of Karina who recently visited and brought me peanut butter.

Went to a MONOCHROME party the other night with my neighbors Alan, Henning and Matthias. The costumes were pretty crazy. Everyone had to wear one color only and they took it seriously. One guy wore all foil. I think he was supposed to be the Tin Man. Another guy wore orange pants, shirt, and turban...and held a giant carrot the entire night. But nothing was as ridiculous as what my neighbors and Henning's girlfriend were wearing. They went in this ABBA meets Teletubby yellow attire equipped with a yellow ruffly blouse and a tighter European version of gaucho pants. Apparently Henning had convinced some wholesale (they only sell to retailers by the hundreds)shop to give them 4 samples to show to a "crowd of hundred people" to "confirm" the purchase. Hahaha. Talk about awesome.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"We are always running for the thrill of it, thrill of it" - Empire of the Sun

Location: My sofa that caves in the middle
Currently Listening: Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream
Weather: A little drizzle, a little shine

Spent the "better" of the morning waiting at the SNCF office only to be disappointed by the lack of good deals to South France...maybe I won't end up there for my birthday. I really wanted to see Nice... Maybe I will go there in May. I always thought traveling alone would be fun, but now I just feel like without someone else there, what's the point? But then the other part of me thinks why should you need someone else to enjoy life. Oh I don't know. I think I just wanted to go to the beach to drown in the sun and try to pretend I don't very much need to be home taking care of matters with friends and family...and of course spending my 21st with my best friends. Well, I'm in Paris for my birthday end of story.

What's it like in Paris? It's normal. I think what I've learned from being here is that life is the same wherever you live. It still has its ups and you can't just run off to the other side of the world and expect life to suddenly be more exciting. I always wanted to start my life in Europe, but I think I could be happy anywhere if I just decide to live life that way.

That's not say that Paris isn't completely different and bizarre in it's own way from Austin. So just for kicks.... You know you're in Paris when...
-Wine is as cheap as bottled water
-Local pizzerias are the hot spot for anyone that sports a yamaka or earlocks
-Children are always accompanied by their au pair
-Women wear billowy pants like Aladdin
-Most guys have better hair days than your very best
-Cute dogs sit on window sills of small shops
-The constant techno gets you more jittery than any cup of espresso
-Cafe Noisette ("hazelnut coffee") is not a cup of hazelnut coffee, but rather espresso served with a touch of cream to give the color of hazelnut
-The business schools hire professional bouncers for their parties
-Chestnuts are not something in your plate of Buddha Delight, but are mashed into a creamy sweet paste for crepes [Really strange texture... don't really recommend it]
-Tomato in a sandwich is not slices, but rather pasta sauce

Oh Paris, so silly, but I still love you.

By the way, I started this 365 days of pictures ordeal on Flickr so check it out:

<-- A little preview

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Ah-what what what what what did you think would happen next?" - LCD Soundsystem

Location: Soaking up the window light from my bed, now equipped with one killer pillow
Weather: Warmer than Austin, Texas, what?!
Currently Listening: Time to Get Away by LCD Soundsystem

Good Lord getting to Dublin on Wednesday was quite the journey. Flying Ryan Air was absolutely miserable. Had to pay 10 euros for being American (non EU passport carriers must pay for check-in) and my carry-on was so heavy that I literally wore 3 pants, 2 shirts, 3 sweaters and my coat, hat, and scarf. Add to that, my make-up in my boots, laptop charger, deodorant, phone, key, and wallet in my pockets. Oh and I wore my SLR around my neck. Yes, I was ready to pass out from hyperthermia. Naturally I made no hesitation in coughing up 3 euros for the bottled water on the flight. On the plane to further irritate me, an earring Rachel had given me for Christmas fell out of my wallet. I never found it, but I did manage to break the other that I was holding up to show the girl in the seat next to me when I tried to return it to my wallet. Well a flight and bus later, I was thrilled to see that gorgeous of a blonde Brady and pretty much collapsed in bed upon arrival to her dorm.

Exploring Dublin started the next morning. After hanging out with Oscar Wilde atop "Pride Rock" in Merrion Square, I walked Brady to class (I should have carried her books and brought her coffee) at Trinity, I headed straight to all the good shopping on Grafton Street. My first stop was Marks & Spencers, which made me get all nostalgic about Scotland. Used to pick up all the yummy, extravagant chocolate mousse desserts at the M&S on Princes Street and enjoy them in the gardens below. I made no hesitation in picking up one of their melt-in-your-mouth chocolate shortbread slices from the bakery.Lots of butter and lots of sugar equals very happy Saloni.

That happy snack set me on my way to River Island, which has really fun wallets and handbags...and I pretty much wanted to buy a whole new wardrobe- maybe because I finally wasn't looking at things that cost hundreds of euros (Silly Paris). At that point though I'd not had my will power broken from shopping for non-groceries so my ogling didn't result in shopping bags. Top Shop has a lot of cute clothes, too. It's not as cutting edge fashion as the boutiques in Le Marais where I live but of course the pricing is much more accessible.

During her lunch hour, Brady took me to Butlers Chocolate Cafe where I had some hot chocolate and a whiskey truffle. Milk chocolate definitely has its place in my heart, but it was definitely a change from the intense dark chocolate consumption in France and Belgium.

Brady had a little more class so I decided to walk around St. Stephen's Green, which is a massivepark/garden. I wished I brought a book with me to lounge and read, but I had nothing but a map and camera on me. After a nice walk outside around the duck pond and starting-to-bloom trail, I decided to hit up the national museums, most of which were closed because of a low wage workers protest, but I was able to visit The National Gallery to see Jack B. Yeats' work. His painting "Many Ferries" intrigued me most.

At night, Brady took me The Porterhouse where I was able to satisfy my craving for Bailey's on the Rocks. The glass was shaped funny or more likely purposefully so that the ice cube could not leave the glass. I've decided when I return to Austin, I'll be mixing Baileys in cup of Sonic ice, yes, I hate fast-food, but this drive-in establishment is good for something.

After walking around the rest of Temple Bar(this can refer to the pub or the street of pubs), which I found to be rather touristy and what I envision what a street would look like if Party City got drunk and puked on it, I had Brady take me to O'Connel Street and forced swimsuit shopping on her. Rachel can take comfort in the fact that I've decided not to swim in a bra and underwear in Greece. We had gotten to this store and picked out all the swimsuits to try on and just as we reached the fitting rooms the store closed. Even though I was royally pissed at Penney's, I dragged Brady back there in the morning to finish what we started since the prices were just too good. I felt perfectly fine with purchasing a swimsuit for 7 euros because I will probably never use it after the trip. I pretty much hate swimming and never really need a bathing suit other water activities, but figured I must go swimming anyway in Greece because it's the thing to do. After picking out the swimsuit, I found a beautiful, lavender dress at surprisingly Penney's and had to get it. First article of clothing purchased on this trip! Brady got herself a burnt orange purse. I was a big advocate of Brady buying a purse and anything relating to her girly-transformation.

Purse packed with hiking essentials (aforementioned swimsuit and dress) Brady and I boarded the bus to Glendalough for "some green" as per my request. There we went hiking on a few nature trails in a lake filled valley below the mountains and shared a lovers' picnic on a fallen tree-trunk. In the forest, the air tasted so fresh and untainted from cigarettes. The trees and ground were covered in green moss and looked beautiful. Wherever I stood I could hear the sound of the stream, and for the first time I felt so at ease.

On Friday Night, we met up with the Frisbee kids (Brady plays on the Women's Ultimate Frisbee Team, go figure) for someone's twenty-first at this pub called The Bernard Shaw. It was fairly crowded, but there was was a back room reserved for us. Brady thinks drinks are expensive in Dublin. In France you can pay 4-5 euros for a half a pint. You pay that much in Dublin and get a full pint! Anyway, I ended up with one of the must-haves (I turned down the Guinness as I've tried it before and there was no way in heck I'd be able to consume an entire glass let alone more than sipfull, and some crazy purple drink called like Booker's Fast, someone correct me on this..because apparently it tastes like dying), a pint of Bulmers. That took me forever to drink. My belly is so small! And it wasn't pleasant to me either. I'm glad I have the sense not to keep up with Brady. She's full blooded Irish when it comes to drinking. Anyway the pub and meeting all of Brady's new friends was entertaining, but it soon came time for dancing at The Village! The atmosphere is very different from Parisian clubs. Most people just dance to dance and enjoy the good music ( a lot of indie techno, classic 80s songs ) excessive touching/grinding. It's definitely worth the cover, that's all I have to say. We danced until I don't know how long, and then Brady and I walked across town with some of the frisbee boys back to her dorms.

I had a lazy Saturday morning and slept in till noon (Brady had slept for what, 3 hours? and left for a frisbee tournament). I finally got up, showered, and made my way into center of town to finish up the tourist attractions which I decided to see at turtle pace. Rushing through from point-to-point just would've killed me. I enjoyed a tour(included in the entrance fee) of Dublin Castle, which now serves as a government building and visited the ChristChurch and St.
Patrick's Cathedrals. Actually after
seeing ChristChurch, I felt it unnecessary to pay to see the other and only walked around the nice garden outside. I exhausted myself from walking but managed to get myself as far as possible from Brady's dorm and so I inched slowly back to the dorms to meet her upon return from the tournament. So tired from my day, Brady and I just laid in bed reading for the evening, me with Twilight(KP lent it to me) and Brady with her physics textbook.

On Sunday, we woke up and took the DART tram to the fishing village of Howth.
Outside the station we ran into a fresh market where we tried on some seaweed beauty cream and got cupcakes! We hiked our way up
through the town on the hill with the warm sun shining down on us to get to Howth Head. The cliff was so green and beautiful and overlooked the
sea, definitely
breath-taking. Brady and I found a big rock and just sat to enjoy the good weather and a few sandwiches. After coming down the hill we walked around the other side of town to try and find some castle gardens.

At night we came home just in time to start getting ready for Brady's Texas Independence Day party fully equipped with enchiladas, salsa & chips, margaritas, and George Strait. Brady had just gotten started on the cooking when I realized she had several packets of Papadum and no tortillas!!! Papadum are like these fried, spicy Indian
crackers you eat with dinner and needless to say would not be useful in making enchiladas. Brady rushed back to the store while I kept Sean (a friend from UT also studying in Dublin) and the other guests company. She returned soon enough and taught me how to make some vegetarian enchiladas. So so easy and so so good. I will definitely be making these upon return home. I made them with some faux-chicken cubes (Quorn Chik'n Tenders) which actually worked out really nicely even though I didn't shred them like real chicken. It was so nice to eat something that tasted like home, although I still haven't killed my craving for guacamole, the last bit of Tex-Mex I had before leaving Texas. T sheer stomach delight sent me in a food coma for the few hours I had left before my flight back to Paris.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"So what can I do when I'm thinking of you?" - Shout Out Louds

The Answer? Wear my mom's earrings, eat belgian chocolate for Rachel, try pink beers for Paddy, order a dose of Jameson for Joe, attempt to purchase a giant bra of Belgian lace for Karina among other things

Location: En route to Dublin
Currently Listening: My Friend and the Ink by Shout Out Louds
Weather: Surprisingly sunny

I didn't make it to Lux, but I got the "Be" & "Ne" parts out of the way.

An Overview of Belgium & the Netherlands:
Emily, her friend Carley, and I caught a train Friday morning to Brussels where we met up with Chole. None of our cell phones worked and meeting up in the train station was nothing short of a disaster. It's funny how now matter how clear a person is about meeting place there's always some unavoidable confusion with the interpretation of places. Anyway, I followed the little-kid-lost-in-the-grocery-store-plan and stood in one place till Momma Chole found us.
While Em and Carley dropped off their things at their hostel, Chole and I walked around the Grote Markt (Market Square) which was full of SURPRISE, SURPRISE beer, chocolate, and waffles!! You know that bewitching smell of buttery popcorn they pipe out of movie theatres to lure people inside? Well, intensify that by infinity and switch it out with the cozy smell mapley waffles and dark chocolate. Basically Richard Simmon's worst nightmare. Of course, I hit up Neuhaus and Leonidas, which are the more affordable, most heard of chocolatiers, but couldn't walk two feet with out finding myself in smaller local chocolate shops where I selected the most interesting truffles. I didn't even step inside Godiva since it's way too easy to find it at home.

For dinner, we met up with with Carlos, my cousin Ram's new wife Monika's college buddy who I met at the wedding. The restaurant was traditionally Belgian and of course lacking in the vegetarian department. I ended up with fondue and a Lindemans Framboise beer. Surprisingly the beer went down pretty easily and I rather enjoyed it. The fondue on the other hand was some sort of fried mushy cheese. Not really pleasant. I will have to try fondue somewhere else in Europe, that's for sure. At dinner we talked about how easy it seemed to ride the metro or train in Brussels without anyone checking tickets, but Carlos warned us that the train station closest to him was often checked by controllers. Sure enough on the way home sleepy from beer, Chole and I forgot to mark our Belgium "Go Pass" with our arrival destination before getting on the train and were fined by the controllers! Luckily they only gave us fine worth the price of a ticket.

The next day Chole and I met up with her friends Patsiya and Pui to explore Antwerp. We tried to meet up with Emily and Carly at the train station, but couldn't find them anywhere. Apparently we were standing on either side of a wall and missed each other completely! After a long while we had no choice but to give up and left the train station. A short walk from the station and we found ourselves in China Town, where I found the most ginormous Jumbo Size Asian Rice Crackers. I felt like a little kid and haddd to get them. :) Plus they are considered a luxury in Paris and cost a arm and a leg (a theory later disproved by trip to LIDL discount store). I also picked up some instant Pad Kee Mao to make in Dublin... wouldn't recommend it..but apparently I'm not allergic to MSG 'cause the noodles didn't kill me (This is my version of living on the edge).

My intense Belgium research (I spent all of Thursday during class reading wikitravel) told me about a hidden street in Antwerp, which you won't find on any maps. Needless to say it's a walking street that can't be accessed by car and is found behind giant sometimes closed doors. I won't ruin the fun if you plan to visit so I'll just tell you the street is near Hoogstraat. The street was full of surprises: cute European stacked homes, a bizarre art gallery, greenery, and a small restaurant.

We spent most of the day walking around the nice clothing stores and small boutiques deeper into the town. The major fashion museum was closed, but we peeked inside the building through the windows and it was so beautifully designed. The boutiques surrounding the museum made for a delightful browse. I couldn't peel my eyes off some of cardigans and dresses I found, but of course none of trees on the street were sprouting euros. The Staadstfeetszal shopping centre was also a sight for sore eyes. In the center of the mall there's a swanky Laurent-Perrier Champagne Bar....literally the shape of a champagne glass. Who wouldn't want to sit on top of the bar and drown himself in champagne?

We picnicked in the main square by a beautiful flower market. It was nice to see the bright reds, purples, and yellows after a cold, colorless winter. Good old PB&H (Peanut butter & honey - new cheap love) wasn't enough to fill our bellies so we ventured off to find dessert. I spotted a GuyLian Cafe and dragged the girls inside. My chocolate milkshake was was essentially a glass of milk with tiny bits of chocolate on the top and bottom and gave me a terribly stomach ache (lactose intolerant)... but the chocolate was naturally sinful.

After some more shopping and a visit to Castle Steen, we ended our day taking goofy pictures on the boardwalk of Antwerp Port. Pretty sure all the locals were staring at us...4 crazy girls photographing themselves jumping up into blue sky. I will never get too old for some games.

In the morning, Chole and I met up with her friends Sara, Laura, Corinna and Lad for day in Maastricht, a town in the Netherlands for Carnaval. Again we tried to meet up with Emily and Carly at the train station but to no avail. We picked up some beer and rum cola at the nearest Albert Heijn and headed into town to meet up some more friends at an Irish pub.

We'd heard that Maastricht was second best after the carnaval in Venezia. Well needless to say, Carnaval was absolutely crazy. Not sure if it was water falling from the sky or beer. We spent the day in the streets making friends with everyone (One lady just gave me a glass of Heineken for no reason other than I raised my hand slightly when she asked her friends if anyone wanted one) in their crazy costumes. The locals spend all year putting together extravagant costumes. Sometimes it seemed as though a family spent all year collecting all things blue(or green or pink or silver or black) and sewed it together to make some sort shiny, fabulous outfit. Every group had floats (equipped with coolers for storing beer) and swarmed the streets for the parade that lasted all day collecting more and more people. The craziest costume was an entire group of toilet brushes..but the shock from that was nothing in comparison to the baby-in-a-glass-box float.

We felt ashamed for our serious lack of costumes and searched all through town to find the one store left open on a Sunday. Chole and I bought masks but mine couldn't really fit over my glasses so I wore it on the back of my head and used Carly's eyeliner(I ran into Carly and Emily out of sheer luck later that afternoon) to draw a peace sign on my cheek. I also made a make-shift hippie headband out of a yellow clip-on highlight from Corinna....haha. It was interesting-looking...

Whenever it got too cold or alcohol in-take required relieving we made ours way into the bars that were extravagantly decorated. Imagine Party City puking on a bar. The one thing that seemed to confuse me was the street full of not bottles or beer cans but glasses. Apparently the bartenders don't collect the glasses or make any attempt to stop people from walking right out of the bar with glasses in hand. So naturally I felt no need to return the adorable beer-mug shaped shot glasses after Sara and I had ourselves some Jameson.

On the train to Brugges I realized I left all my notes and my map at home. Luckily I ran into some guy from Cleveland who let me borrow his guidebook for the train ride there where I hurriedly jotted a list of things to see.

Map-less and groggy I made my rainy day exploration to the nearest tourist center where I had to buy a city map from a machine. After leaving the tourist center, I looked everywhere for this lake of swans, but gave up trying and headed into the town center.

The architecture of the town was delightful and overly cute. It's kind of like walking around Southlake Town Square but much bigger. Mostly the city's remodeled so it's kind of like historical fiction...but I don't mind it much. I imagine walking through Brugge is what it would be like to walk through a town of ceramic Christmas houses if came to life.

The cold sprinkle made me shiver so I was pleased to come across the Museum-Gallery Xpo: Salvador Dalí in one of the squares. Dali's work never fails to surprise, amaze, and delight me. He was so unbelievably clever. The gallery itself was its own work of art, such glorious colors and textures and arches.

But what's a day in Belgium without handmade chocolates? I decided to eat chocolate and keep walking as food seemed too expensive, plus rain and being alone was too depressing for un table pour une.

The Truffle Hop:
On Rick Steve's recommendation, I tried a slab of dark chocolate with crispy cacao beans of which I made scrumptious lunch.
I'd remembered reading something about a small museum underneath the chocolate shop, but the lady inside had no idea what I was talking about so I gave up bought some champagne truffles and walked away.

Louvain La Nueve
Walked around the fresh/flea can pick up a jumpsuit or 1kg of epinard for 5 Euros. At the mediterranean stand, I picked up red bell peppers instead of tomatoes (YET AGAIN). I thought they were feta stuffed cherry tomatoes. I hate my life sometimes.

Of course it didn't take me long to find a kitchen store where I found a few must-haves.
3) Yes the are birthday gift hints. Think of it like this. You buy the supplies, I cook you up a wonderful meal.

The rest of the mall was unimpressive, except for the grocery store...I kick myself every time I see the prices of food in other countries. Paris is so dang expensive. I feel like I'm living on a shoestring cooking every meal, not shopping, and staying with friends when I travel, but I'm failing miserably as my bank account is draining. I'm not sure what I can do except to try and stay in Paris as much as possible. I really wish I had a summer internship sorted out to make things more comfortable for my family and had made a bit more money working over the fall semester.

Great, I'm going to be late for school now. Wish me luck. I promise not to complain as much seeing as I'm in Paris, but I'm afraid it's absolutely Parisian to complain about everything. À tout à l'heure'

"What do you think they do in the Netherlands for two hours?" -Sara

Location: Chole's Air Mattress in Louvain La Nueve
Currently Listening: Super Sjoene Daag (vlierglied) - De Radlers
Weather: Mild/Humid..probably from hanging wet laundry

Well, it sure has been a whirlwind weekend as I've spent the past few days making a tour of Belgium with a quick stopover in Maastricht for Carnaval. My weekend has consisted of the following:

- Losing my hat in the bathroom of a biscuit shop
- Intense  BBCW consumption (Belgian Beer Chocolate & Waffles)
- A day each in Brussels, Antwerp, Brugge, and Louvain La Nueve (where Chole is studying)
- The Maastricht Carnaval (the European origins of Mardi Gras void of beads and flashing)
- Catching up on the Buck Wild History of Miss Chole Brumley

I would love to write more, and maybe I will on the plane, but I am of course totally unpacked for my flight to Dublin in a few hours. Promise fun stories to come!!

Every five seconds this song played from a float in the Carnaval parade in Maastricht.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"And I won't be satisfied till there's nothing left that I haven't tried," - Brendan Benson

Location: My room, which has not experienced invasion by the Rat King. I'm waiting for my Nutcracker Prince to save me from Francois.
Currently Listening: What I'm looking for - Brendan Benson
Weather: Right index-finger-aching cold (That's zero degrees Celsius)

Fun Finds in Le Marais

Today's Reverse Course Dinner!

Creperie Suzette
24 rue des Francs Bourgeois 75003 Paris
Alas a good c
repe curbside! I'll have to go back to eat inside where they have a much larger selection, but man it seems like you're more likely to get quality crepes when you go to a regular creperie that has a "take-away" window.

I ordered a crepe citron....Soft, sweet crepe doused in the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon and SUGAR. As Laura described it, he "rained" that sugar on, baby. Tasty, tasty!!!! What did Laura get? Nutella banana, as always! I would complain more about her need to try other flavors but I take comfort in the fact that she tries all the ones I order, and that I always get to sneak a bite of hers to get my Nutella fix.

L'As du Falafel 34 Rue des Rosiers, 4th Tel 01 48 87 63 60 Frankly, I'm not at all concerned with the fact that this in Lenny Kravitz' pick of Paris (If you forget to read your Lonely Planet, don't worry, the menu will remind you), but this place was freakin' de-lish. I loove my neighborhood, so much good food in such close proximity. Anyway, I had the Falafel special... red and white cabbage, roasted egglants, cucumbers, tzakiki sauce, and crisp - made on the spot falafels. They make 'em better here. I used to get tummy aches from the ones I find around Austin.. probably not fresh.

3) Laura picked out my new Metro husband...he's moroccan and has funny shoes.

The past fortnight...

Last week we threw a party at chez moi (my place)! A bit of wine and cheese is enough to get a party started here - big change from the trashcan-punch "soirees" that give UT its "#1 party school in the nation" title. I miss apartment parties from back home - good mixture of relaxed conversation and wild dancing with no cover and coat check fee! Most of our friends are all international students and live in dorms so we're mostly "forced" to socialize in bars and clubs, which gets expensive quickly...but sometimes wealthy friends get bottle service. The other night we went to Club Med. On the tables they had some atypical apple juice. I hope this apple juice and vodka craze doesn't catch on in elementary schools back home...

How is school going? (Apparently, I'm allowed to conduct self-interviews on this thing) Got a ton of group projects I'm working on... I gave a presentation today for my International Business Management class on the how investors should put their money into the tourism sector of Vietnam. In the afternoon I had my European Model class taught by a rather young professor dressed in mustard suspenders, Harry Potter gl
asses, and purple tie who spent three hours discussing in detail the madness behind today's financial crisis.

I wish all topics could be taught by visiting a museum. The other day I went to a really neat art exhibition 6 Billion Others which should be coming to a museum near you! This man went to 65 different countries interviewing people about life over about ten years and created this video art presentation. Basically, you walk through different tents on subjects like change, dreams, fear, first memories, love, happiness, etc. and watch clips of responses. Incredibly moving.

Today Laura and I explored some random gardens we found on a page in our Paris map/guidebook. By explore I mean to say played make-believe and acted like we were on the Discovery Channel and crawled through passages in the bushes and made up descriptions of plants. She probably doesn't want me to share this with you. Outside the leafy labyrinth we found ourselves at some sort of zoo like exhibit where we met some wallabies! (Mmm Wallaby Yoghurt is delicious! It's just a brand don't worry not freaky australian food) We kept on walking and ended up at the Grande Galerie de l'Évolution, a natural history museum. Pretty fascinating display of animals. I'm too lazy to upload pictures, otherwise I'd show you. The whale jaws/teeth were kind of gross/weird like a sea broom. I'm rambling. Probably should wrap up.

Wraps make me think of Greek food which triggers baklava which reminds me of the dessert I found in the bakery down the street from the gardens. Kristina will be jealous because it was AFRICAN food! I thought it was Algerian, but the receipt says Les Graines de Kenza. I know that was not the name on the building though so good luck finding it. Incredible display of desserts I've never seen in my life. I have no idea what I ate, but it was a triangle and was flakey with honey and almond. Pleasant, but I think my tummy is rejecting sugar today. Oh well, the sun'll come out tomorrow.

1) The infamous little sucker that gives me a little heart attack whenever I enter the kitchen. God, if I ever find him in my boot....

He likes hanging out under the sink, so I stand awkwardly away from it when I wash my hands.
The vegetarian/Gandhi-ist in me refuses to put the rat poison out or use a trap that may maim Francois. I tried to catch him in a cardboard box once. Quite the disaster. . he has too many passages to run through in the walls. Gandhi, help me, how do I kill him with kindness?!

2) They listen to TAYLOR SWIFT in the supermarkets here. Should I be surprised?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Oh give me the words, give me the words" - Nouvelle Vague

Location: Train to Paris
Currently Listening: Nouvelle Vague - In a manner of speaking
Weather: Snow fall!


The Cast
Mama Blair

Description: Moves as fast as a bullet, powered by yogurt cups

Hobbies: Eating yogurt, speed-walking, making sarcastic comments

Famous Quotes:
“I’m prepared to do something illegal.”
“I want my carrots. Just give me the damn carrots!”

The Old Couple
Laura/Turtle #1

Description: Ham-nivore eager to play rugby and meet Mr. Darcy

Hobbies: Eating Nutella banana crepes, listening to HSM soundtracks, Skype-ing with Mama Suttles

Famous Quotes:
“You know, Camp Rock, the Disney movie?" (No….)

Saloni/Turtle #2

Description: Vegetarian with uncontrollable enthusiasm and bangs, and mad map skills

Hobbies: Finding husbands on the Metro, eating hummus, carrying too many bags

Famous Quotes:
“Oh my God, I saw a donkey!”
“What’s that recycling sign for?”

I strongly advise against visiting Normandie in January unless you are from Poland. Not even thermals, jeans, a cami, long sleeves, coat, scarf, gloves and hat could keep this Texan girl warm in the blustery winter of North France.

Overview of the Plot
On Friday Laura and I rushed after French class to meet Blair and head to the train station for a little weekend trip to Normandie and Brittany. The train ride was more than pleasant; clean, sleek, fast and heated! Much different from my experiences in India (the scent of urine can be so strong and the fight for a seat can be an ordeal) and in Italy (on our way to Pisa, there was a strike and we had to sit around waiting for hours on the train)… but nothing like riding through the French countryside! I just need to find me a nice plot of land in the middle of the country and set up a little B&B or creperie or something of the sort. Although I don’t think I’d like making a bunch of beds and cleaning bathrooms all day… Seriously though, I can’t wait to have my own house. I daydream everyday about the kitchen I will have with the a big round stove to make crepes or dosas, copper sinks that deepen in color with age, and the pizza oven out in the backyard…

Our train arrived in Deauville around 4. … not too much going on in Deauville although we kept seeing signs for some American cinema festival they have every year…This place is definitely for the wealthy who want to waste away on their yachts or in the casino hotel…. I gambled for the first time… Stuck a ten center in a slot machine. Yeah, I think I’d get a much bigger kick out of finding a toy in a cereal box. The shops were nice, lots of well-known designers, and smaller unheard of boutiques, but we arrived as they were closing (Oh Europe, the continent that starts falling asleep at 6pm). Blair spotted an Astin Martin and naturally wanted a photo shoot with the beauty. (Blair must’ve been a model in another lifetime because she can pull out the pouty lips or a sultry pose at a moment’s notice) Unfortunately for us the owner started walking up to the car just as we were taking photos. Hahaha how embarrassing!
After an Italian dinner, (you’d think I’d learn by now that Italian food sucks in France. I want basil on my Margherita pizza and I don’t want it coated with emmental!) and a 25 minute hike in the blood-freezing cold out of the city center along some dark foresty road, we arrived at our small hotel Kyriad.

Saturday morning we woke up and tried to get a car we’d rented online from Hertz. Unfortunately Hertz US failed to tell Hertz France about our reservation – much to our surprise because our families have relied on Hertz many times in the past. There was not a single automatic car in the city so we were forced to take a train (Thank God for public transport) to Caen and rent a care there. What’s a good road trip without a few hiccups?

We had to wait a few hours till our train arrived so we warmed our bodies by a heater in nearby brasserie. There we learned about the typical breakfast offering. Orange juice + Coffee + Croissant also known as death-wish for Saloni so I ordered a chocolat chaud and called it a meal.

Our train to Caen stopped in Liseux by the time our empty tummies began eating our insides. We walked around but nothing was open (again!) but this bar next to the train station. There was nothing vegetarian but a plate of fries. Tempting at the time, but I do not want this feeling of an extra layer building up to be more than my long underwear…so I found some chirwa I’d brought a long for the trip and made it my lunch while Laura attempted a strange baguette filled with mayo and hard boiled eggs – needless to say that did not end well…

Caen was a breath of fresh air. We walked around a nice set of shops along some cobblestone streets (I love cobblestone streets) where we found my French lover Paul waiting for us. I had the most delicious sandwich made with olive bread. Mom, I know you’d eat a loaf of this stuff in a heartbeat. I am growing a new liking to olives in more than just the olive oil context. After a quick look in Sephora, which was having a crazy sale like we’ve never seen in the U.S., we found ourselves in an environmental shop, Nature & Découvertes, which sells a lot of neat green products from beauty supplies to clothing, to incense to camping essentials. Of course everything was in French so when I tried to put on moisturizer, I ended up putting on soap. This tree-hugger/shop-aholic couldn’t walk out with buying something so I ended up walking out with this swiss army knife like thing with a cutlery set… for all the picnics I plan to have in warmer weather. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked out of grocery store in Europe wishing I could make a cheap healthy snack of yoghurt or couscous if only I had a spoon. I’m sure it’ll come in handy especially when I backpack through Greece.

We also walked around Abbey Aux Hommes, which was gorgeous. Don't worry, Karina, they also built an Abbey Aux Dames on the other side of town!

We drove off to Bayeux a nearby town. While the girls freshened up, I went off exploring on my own and picked up a few goodies at Salon de The, and Jeff de Bruges chocolate shop. Truffes in French patisseries are really chocolate dipped meringue balls with chocolate crème. I walked through the whole in search of good place for dinner but everything was close or way too French (code for anti-vegetarian). I ended up at what a surprise, another Italian restaurant. I had a nice aubergine pizza, nothing remotely Italian, but at least better than the night before.
This time there was a bit of chili oil and salt and pepper for me to give a little more flavor.
After getting lost a little I mustered up the strength to ask someone where I was and soon made it to the delightful Hotel Le Bayeux where I warmed up and watched The Daily Show while the girls ate a restaurant famous for the Normandy pig.

Sunday morning we visited the world’s longest tapestry, which tells the tale of William the Conqueror. Pretty amazing to have survived the years.. it did get a little gory at one point with chopped heads and horses getting strewn about.

Nothing like staring at a tapestry to work up our appetite (Laura and I could pretty much eat at all hours) so I brought the girls back to the Salon de Thé…I love the marble counters lined the shop and beautiful white tables and chairs perfect for tea parties. I found another apple dessert I like besides apple pie. If a Tarte Normande comes knocking at your door, by God open it!

After Bayeux we hit the beach…I thought we could have a picnic, enjoy looking at the water, it was of course cold. BOY WAS I IN FOR A SURPRISE! The weather found its way into negative Celsius degrees and the wind burned my cheeks and the occasional stronger gust had enough strength to knock me off balance. Still, we made attempts to enjoy all of the beaches we stopped at along the Normandie coastline by taking a few snapshots and getting as close to waves as possible without succumbing to death by frost bite.

The three of us brushed up on our history by visiting the American Cemetery where we
watched several short films about WWII and read about stories of war heroes. It was a little unnerving to walk through the room where a recording of a woman reading the names of those lost played and the sight of all of the white crosses. Blair and I looked at the pictures of then young boys in the war who had to grow up so quickly. I think if the entire world was suddenly at war, American boys our age wouldn’t be prepared or be able to handle what those before us went through and hopefully, they never will.

4 o’ clock on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of nowhere Normandy, we knew we were Kanye-West-screwed in terms of finding food since we’d missed lunch. (Oh the ever present American worry of missing a meal). We attempted a 2 hour drive to St. Malo south of Mont St. Michel where our hostel was that evening in search of food. Again we found ourselves among gated up shops and restaurants with the exception of a Domino’s, a questionable tri-Asian restaurant, and a fondue place…which appeared to be the French equivalent of a biker bar. We got as far as sitting down at the table in the fondue place, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to order anything on the menu and the restaurant wasn’t technically open (they were cleaning and setting up) so we ran across the street to this tiny food mart and picked up some life savers (Monaco crackers & yogurt for Blair) and set out for Mont. St Michel (got way lost – we couldn’t find a map large enough to cover the area).

Just outside Mont St Michel, we spotted a large, nice looking restaurant with, PEOPLE and a fireplace! We rushed into La Restaurant de la Galette and had a nice long, hot meal. The owner served our meal and was a very nice man who was gracious to serve us difficult English speakers at what must have time for closing. Blair begged him to bring her out a plate of carrots (All of us are concerned with our nutrition here…it’s really hard to get vegetables in restaurants) and luckily he whipped up a vegetarian crepe for me. It was basically a crepe with a tomato, carrots, and white beans lying on top of it, but I was so hungry and the food tasted so nice and fresh I didn’t care (We found out afterward that everything came from the fields next to the restaurant). Oh, I almost did something horrific. I almost ordered a crepe with bourdin noir… Blair’s Oxford French – English dictionary translated this as black pudding…. But really it’s BLOOD PUDDING. Perhaps if I had eaten a proper meal that I would have lost it right there on the table when the waiter told me this. I think it was just the combination of my being ready to order it and who knows if I would have been able to tell what it was on a plate. Thank God they teach us in American schools (opposite in French ones) that no question is a stupid question!

We got back into the car to discover the dashboard lights had decided to turn. All this time, Blair had been driving with a flashlight in her right hand to see the dashboard. The radio also decided to stop working so we had to pull out my laptop and listen to the random songs I had on my iTunes. I think it was midnight by the time we made it to our hostel Au Bon Accueil,
which was advertised as in Mont St. Michel…To our surprise it was a good 20 minutes away…which is enough time to take you through a couple of city centres in northern France. But the hostel was cozy and the lady who owns the place turned out to be a really nice British lady, who was kind enough to give us a proper map of the area.

Monday morning we woke up and ate Blair’s fantasy version of Thanksgiving. Two cups of yoghurt (mine had tiny pieces of green apple! Yum!). We finally got to explore Mont St. Michel, which is a small island with a large castle and a few gift shops with freakish souvenirs: rabbit food with a cat’s head on it, tiny fake cats, dolphins on surfboards, etc.) A+ for creativity though! We were convinced the shops and restaurants had some sort of price-fixing going on. All of the creperies had the same menu (colors, prices and everything) posted outside each of them. We ended up getting these Tartes Provencales (sometimes an actual tart, but in this case, crunchy toast smothered in shredded cheese, herbes de provence, tomatoes, olive oil, and basil.) and, of course, yoghurt for Blair. Also, for whatever reason, we ran into gobs and gobs of Japanese tourists.

We tried to visit what we thought was a chocolate factory but it
ended up being a lame shop with a small museum… so we skipped that and attempted the yoghurt factory for Blair.
We literally saw it off the side of the highway and decided to just stop and see if they would let us in for a tour, but they rejected us. Depression. We made one final attempt at an industry tour and called a local ciderie, Les Vergers du Ducy, to see if they would let us visit in the off-season.

We talked with the owner over the phone, and he was gracious enough to give us a tour without a moment's notice! He was a very nice, knowledgeable man and taught us all about the cider-making process and let us taste a lot of the products they make, which are all organic! They make several drinks apple juice, cidre, pommeau (wine), crème de pomme (similar to Bailey’s), and calvados (brandy). We took a few drinks home, and some cidre vinegar and this yummy-looking confiture de lait, a creamy apple spread to use in crepes.

After that quite delicious pit stop, we hit the road for Deauville to catch our train to Paris. While waiting for our train we sat in this truly vile smelling room to keep warm..I think it was a mixture of vomit and urine. Once a couple, also cold, came by and turned around walked right out because it smelled so bad. They’d rather sit outside. 15 minutes later a woman came in and tried to sit down, but then threw her hands up in frustration and said “Non!” and walked right out. Oh the things we will do to stay warm. A little later, we got on the train and watched the snow fall as we traveled south to Paris.

Shocking news! I started testing out my French on REAL FRENCH people, and I’m starting to get the gist of what people are saying when they respond to my questions. A few new phrases I’ve tried out…
Vous avez chocolat san soja? Do you have chocolate without soy?
Vous avez lait du soja? Do you have soy milk?
Vous avez un carte du Deauville? Do you have a map of Deauville?
Un tableau pour trois., s’il vous plait. A table for three, please.