A few weeks ago, we all enjoyed a great presentation of citrus fruits, given by one of the premier growers in France (and perhaps the world), Monsieur and Madame Bachès. We will probably never again have the opportunity to see so many specimens of citrus together. Not that I usually grow so sentimental over things like citrus, but it really was a rare opportunity. And to hear from someone who really knows–REALLY knows–all about them was incredible. I wasn’t really expecting much, but it was super interesting and informative, and I can’t help but share some of it in photos.
Look how thick the rind is on that one.
Just a few of the many shapes, sizes, and colors of citrus. Did you know that most limes actually ripen to yellow? We pick them before they reach their full maturity. No wonder the french call limes “citron vert”, or the “green lemons.” these two pictures show blood oranges that have been left on the tree for various amounts of time. I believe the darkest one was left a whole year. It was interesting how the flavors and textures changed along with the appearance. citrus caviar. cut the fruit in half, squeeze gently, and the little balls of flesh pop right out. Amazing culinary potential (or just a fun snack on some yogurt, I imagine) Chef William Ledeuil (himself a graduate of Ferrandi and now the chef at Ze Kitchen Galerie, where, incidentally, I nearly went for my internship) came to demonstrate how he uses citrus in some of his recipes.
How lucky to be able to appreciate the beauty and diversity of these fruits.
As per my plan to visit 10 new places in 10 days, I stopped by the Louvre today.Ok, I’ve been before, but that was 6 years ago, and it didn’t seem right to finish out a trip to Paris without at least a quick walk through its galleries. I made sure to go through some rooms I’d never been to before, though!! I’m not making a whole post on this adventure because I forgot my camera and there’s really not much to say that warrants a whole post….I would like to address a few things though. I’ve read a few reviews saying the Louvre is not worth a visit, which strikes me as kind of odd. Of COURSE the Louvre is worth a visit! It’s one of the greatest museums in the world, and with good reason! However, if you have limited time and income (tickets can be expensive, especially for a family), it’s true, there are other museums you might enjoy better. But, if you do want to go, plan your visit carefully so you get the most out of it. Most of the crowds head straight for the Mona Lisa, but to be honest, if you’re not interested in Italian Paintings, that’s really not the most interesting wing, and even though there are plenty of great artists represented, the Louvre rarely has my favorite paintings by those artists. Instead, today i headed for the other half of the Louvre, where I’d never been before, and it was great!! I strongly suggest future visitors to check it out. The Mesopotamian section has some really cool stuff (Hammurabi’s Code of Law, Fragments of Darius’s Palace, Babylonian Steles, and some incredible statues and reliefs from the Assyrian city of Khorsabad). There are also rooms of Medieval and Renaissance tapestries, stained glass, ceramics, coats of armor (more interesting than paintings), furniture, crown jewels, and the absolutely incredible Apartments of Napoleon that rivals Versailles in grandeur (in case you forgot this building was, in fact, originally a palace). Amazingly, nearly all the galleries I toured today were practically empty of tourists, telling me most people don’t venture past the Venus de Milo. No wonder people are so disappointed with the Louvre!!
Aaaaand on to the original subject of this post. So I’d like to find a way to make this more interesting, but I’m not feeling very creative today so I’ll just jump right in with Christmas Vacation Part Two. When I left off, we had just finished the first round of Christmas celebrations, and were just getting in the car for a quick journey north. We decided to head up to visit Liam’s grandmother in Bradford, Yorkshire and see some of his family. His sisters drove, and we sipped coffee and played 20 Questions for 3 hours up the highway.
We arrived, and were greeted almost immediately with tea and the biggest plates of fried chicken and potatoes with cabbage (Liam tells me it’s a traditional Irish dish called colcannon) I think I have ever seen. Time passed quickly until evening, when we set out for the Pantomime. Pantomime is, in the words of Wikipedia, “a form of musical comedy stage production, designed for families, developed in the United Kingdom and mostly performed during the Christmas and New Year season. Modern pantomime includes songs, slapstick comedy and dancing, employs gender-crossing actors, and combines topical humour with a story loosely based on a well-known fairy tale.It is a participatory form of theater, in which the audience is expected to sing along with certain parts of the music and shout out phrases to the performers.”
In demonstration, I found a youtube video. Incidentally, this is a dress rehearsal of a performance at the same theatre I went to, and of the same fairy tale (just done a few years ago). The version I saw was actually quite different and didn’t have any of this in it, which is sad because it’s actually quite good!
Even though Pantomime isn’t the holiday tradition in the states as it is in England, the show struck me as being quite similar to the version of the Christmas Carol that is put on in Raleigh every year. Silly humor, singing and dancing, a few eyebrow-raising stunts, and the obligatory casting of men as the evil stepsisters…everyone got a good laugh and had a lot of fun 🙂
The next day, Liam and I decided to take a little excursion, so we hopped on the train to York. It was a relatively short ride through some beautiful countryside, or what would have been beautiful countryside if it wasn’t all underwater. The sheep were swimming. ((on a serious note, £600m of food such as wheat and potatoes was lost, and there was the worst apple crop in 15 years and a 75% drop in honey production…not just due to water on the ground, but because heavy rains meant the bugs and bees couldn’t come out of their hives to pollinate. Something you don’t really think about when you’re not a farmer.))
Luckily once you got away from the river you could see the sidewalks again. We met some of Liam’s family for lunch, and they were nice enough to show us around town a little bit. Thats the best picture I have of York. Unfortunately all the ones of me or liam in them turned out blurry, wet, windblown, or just miserable-looking, haha. To be fair though, it wasn’t really that bad of weather while we were there, and even in the rain, York is a stunningly beautiful town. As I remarked to Liam’s aunt, it looks exactly like what we Americans expect English towns to look like, down to the crooked old tudor buildings, the cobblestone streets, candy shops and teahouses. It was perfect. I want to move there.
We were short on time so we only got to do one museum, but it was fantastic so it’s ok. If you ever go to York, you must check out the Jorvik Viking Center. In an attempt to build a shopping mall in town, they accidentally stumbled on a ton of Viking artifacts, and rather than just carry on with the mall, they made a viking museum. You get in little cars and ride through a recreated viking town with all the sights and sounds and smells you might have found if you were actually there, 1,000 years ago. It was just like Disney world, I loved it.
We made our way back to London on New Years Eve, but by the time we got home we had lost all motivation to go back out again, massive fireworks or not. So, we stayed home and watched them on television like the rest of the world. lame.
The rest of the week we spent relaxing, playing rockband and singing karaoke for hours on end….
And visiting some Victorian dinosaurs in a park.
So, I think that covers Christmas vacation!! But one final photo….
As I posted yesterday, I’ve issued a challenge for myself: to take full advantage of living in this amazing city, I’m going to go 10 places I haven’t been before in the next 10 days. I don’t have an itinerary per say, but there’s so much to do in Paris, I’m sure I won’t have any trouble finding something new.
Today is a mix of some familiar sites and some new places. It’s a neighborhood I’m familiar with and have spent time wandering around on many occasions, but I wanted to delve in a little deeper and go a little farther. The challenge:: walk all the way to Chinatown. Why? it’s in a section of Paris that is quite central, but not so central I’ve ever had a reason to go there. But, I love neighborhoods with interesting personalities (especially when so much of Paris looks a bit monotonous). Plus, there is a huge Chinese market there that I’ve been meaning to visiting for a month, and just never got around to venturing out to. What? I love Asian markets. If there were frequent customer cards at the Asian Market in Raleigh, I would have had one. Nothing gets creative juices flowing like finding yourself faced with something you’ve never seen before and trying to figure out what to do with it. So, I headed out.
So, that’s the 5th Arrondissement (Administrative district) of Paris, just south of the river and an easy walk from where I live in the 4th. If I were a tour guide, I’d probably have my clients stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens on their way to the Pantheon, which is where I officially started my walk today.
Although the neighborhood has been updated and Parisians get around using more modern transportation these days, the Pantheon still stands more or less how it did when it was built. Designed in the mid-1700’s to be a church to Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, when the French Revolution happened, the building’s purpose changed from religious to civic. It is, today, a monument to the enlightened ideals of the revolution and the men and women behind it. It also serves as a mausoleum, and the crypt houses the tombs of many famous individuals.
After you’ve finished wandering through the Pantheon, head to the church located directly behind it. I first visited Saint-Étienne-du-Mont way back in September, and it’s one of my favorite churches in Paris. It is also dedicated to Saint Genevieve, and houses many of her relics.
it’s hard to capture church interiors in photos. This one is especially ethereal, and its impossible to communicate something so spiritual on film, especially when you’re not a very good photographer (talking about myself, here). But, at least you get to see the beautifully carved screen across the nave, a rarity these days (at some point in history they went out of fashion and many were removed). If you’re ever in Paris and visiting the Pantheon, it is definitely worth your time to pop in to the church as well.
After leaving St. Etienne, I headed south toward Rue Mouffetard, which is one of the famous market streets in Paris. I’ve visited before, but it’s always an enjoyable walk so I decided to plan my route through it again. Streets like this really show the best side of Paris…the Paris everyone imagines and wants to see when they get there.
Just a ways from where Mouffetard dead ends is the Gobelins Manufactory. I’m super resenting that I didn’t pay the 7Euros and go in, as it’s been on my list of things to do for ages. But, at least I’ve seen the outside now? According to the sign it’s got free entrance the last Sunday of the month, so I may venture back and see if that’s true. If you’re not familiar with Gobelins, i’m not referring to little evil creatures here, but actually a legendary family of Flemish weavers who have created some of France’s finest tapestries.
Chinatown was fun. It isn’t worth heading to if you have a limited time in Paris, but I’m glad I checked it out. Some of the shops are huge and have all sorts of interesting things–there’s definitely a lot more to it than what I’ve seen in chinatowns of other cities. It also seems to be the spot if you want some good food…restaurants galore. It shouldn’t be too hard to pick out which ones are worth trying from the run-of-the-mill take out places.
Overall, a fun, full afternoon today! Plan for tomorrow…not sure. Actually thinking I might head down (literally) to the catacombs 🙂
I looked at my calendar yesterday and panicked…how is it that I’ve only got a week of class left, and a moving date set for two weeks from now?? I don’t feel like I should be leaving yet…maybe I SHOULD find a job here afterall. I feel I’ve barely touched the iceburg of what Paris has to offer!!! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen a LOT of Paris. I do a lot of walking. I ride busses just so I can look out the window. I pick metro stops at random and wander around where ever I land. I’m pretty confident now when it comes to finding my way around the city….I rarely get lost, and sometimes I even find what I was looking for.
So how is it that there is still SO MUCH I haven’t seen?!!
I decided to set myself a challenge::: see 10 new things I haven’t seen already in 10 days. Starting today. No excuses. I’m not going away with regrets and shouldacouldawouldas. LETS DO THIS.
After class today, I was in the locker room and mentioned to a girl in my class that I was thinking about going out and seeing a museum or something. She immediately exclaimed that Musée d’Orsay was her favorite, even adding that she’d go again with me herself if she didn’t have a doctor’s appointment. So, with that recommendation, off I went.
The museum is located in the old Gare D’Orsay, or D’Orsay train station, which was hastily built in Paris on the event of the upcoming worlds fair in 1900. However, it was quickly outgrown and turned over for other uses before finding it’s current incarnation:: a beautiful venue for displaying some of the finest art in the world.
Monet and his Waterlily PondWhistler’s MotherA personal favorite of mine: Benouville’s Christian MartyrsDega’s Ballet Class
Also in the collection are Manet’s Luncheon in the Grass, Millet’s Gleaners (I used to always confuse those two), TONS of Monet, Pissaro, Renoir, Rousseau…seriously, as someone who claims to appreciate art, it is embarrassing that it has taken me this long to venture in.
To all who are traveling in Paris: I highly recommend it. It is worth the high price of admission (which, incidentally, I didn’t have to pay because I’m residing in Paris), and the line goes faster than it looks like it’s going (my excuse for not going before is that every time I’ve ever walked by there has been lines out the door and around the corner. Obviously this should have been a sign there was something worth seeing inside). Go straight to the top floor (impressionist paintings) and work your way down. Don’t miss the cool cutaway of the Paris Opera House and the architectural exhibits, I thought they were cool. Do research and know where to look for your favorite paintings before arriving so you don’t miss anything you want to see—it’s a big place!! Make a game out of finding the Statue of Liberty in the museum 🙂 Don’t come too late, they say they close at 6 but they usher you out at 5:30, so make sure you’ve got enough time.
I took a few pictures of the building (photography isn’t allowed in the galleries, and neither are cell phones, thank goodness)::
No idea where I’m off to for day two tomorrow….got a couple ideas though so we’ll see where I actually end up. I’ll be back in the evening for another post!
So, my Christmas Extravaganza came to an end this past Saturday evening, when I boarded the overnight bus to begin the long, sleepless journey from London to Paris, from vacation back to the real world. The real world is slightly more brutal than usual, too, with the clock winding down on my time at Ferrandi and the pressure on to sort out the details of what comes next. Not to mention exams–even at Culinary School they find it necessary to check and make sure we learned something. I’m anxiously packing my bags again—I’m definitely moving *somewhere* come February, and while there are many things I love about being in Paris and as much as I initially wanted to stay, when it comes down to it I cannot wait to live in a city that doesn’t smell like urine, and in a home where I am allowed to shower with the door closed, can microwave my meals or talk on my phone without someone scolding me for all the negative effects its having on my body and the universe as a whole, and where I have a bedroom that averages more than one working lightbulb at any given time.
I know. All small problems, but sometimes a girl’s gotta moan.
I’m very sorry if you have missed hearing from me lately. Reasons include minor technological calamities (if you believe in minor calamities, which I do), not bringing my computer “on holiday” (bad attempts to blend in with the British have so far not been met with any unreasonable assault to my person), the unfortunate fact that the school computer lab does not have proper American keyboards and therefore I can’t be bothered, and the other unfortunate fact that the Christmas cards I specially picked out for you guys are all still sitting sadly on my side table. I’M SO SORRY.
But I’m back now, and here to tell you I’m fine, all is well, life is great, things are going ok, and I bought another lightbulb yesterday so I’m up to two.
Anyway, the subject of this post:: Its now Thursday the 9th of January, which in my Mom’s estimation means I am approximately 15 days late in writing about Christmas (maybe more). As many of you already knew, I was in England with Liam and his family, to whom I really can’t express enough gratitude for welcoming me in and sharing their holidays with me, and trying to help me feel at home during my first Christmas away.
If you saw this next photo on facebook and wondered what was going on, it was taken on a bridge in a Thai restaurant on Christmas eve. Their family’s tradition is to “go for a curry” on Christmas eve, which is an idea I quite like…it’s nice to have something fun and different before settling in for the traditional feast and week of leftovers. This year they deviated slightly from the norm, settling on Thai food, but the sentiment is the same.
Bridges, buddha statues, koi ponds, and jungle-like greenery don’t usually resonate with Christmas spirit, but the food was amazing and and served family-style, each table was set beautifully and festively, and each plate topped with a Christmas Cracker. This was a new tradition for me, although everyone around me seemed to find it hard to fathom that there could be a world without crackers at Christmas. In hindsight, I find it a little bit hard to fathom myself…we Americans need to get with the program.
Upon our return home, we waited in the garage while Liam’s mother ran around completing the Christmas Scavenger Hunt–another family tradition I’m determined to adopt. Silly clues were hid around the house, each one leading to another clue, until finally we were pointed to the location of the hidden treasure…as also per tradition, a set of new pajamas for each of us to wear on Christmas morning.
We played some games, snacked a bit, arranged the presents, and finally headed to bed.
And then it was Christmas morning!
Each member of the family got a giant gift bag, and when we woke up, it was overflowing. I have to stop here and just say I couldn’t be more grateful–I expected I’d have a few things to open, but the generosity was overwhelming. I seriously didn’t think I’d ever see the bottom of that bag.
And then, we sat down to dinner. Again with the crackers, and everyone wearing hats. the table was beautiful…i loved the purple! pictured are me and Liam, his sisters, mom, and stepfather.
The food: roast beef and turkey, Yorkshire pudding, parsnips, brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, pigs in a blanket (English-style, wrapped in bacon instead of crescent rolls), cranberry sauce, and a load of other vegetables and side dishes I can’t remember now. But our plates were full and stomachs happy 🙂
Birmingham from the top floor of a parking deck. That big shiny thing on the right is actually a shopping mall. horrendous, I know.
We also took the dog for a walk. This may not seem like a blog-worthy event, but it kind of was. It was a cold and wet trek with lots of slipping and sliding through mud puddles (and a couple instances where we were sitting in them) and i complained a lot, but really it wasn’t so bad. As I said at the time, that sort of thing is what memories are made of 😛 Plus, once we got out of the (literal) briar patch liam made me climb through, we reached the top of the hill and were rewarded with some stunning views of the English countryside.
We finished off the holidays with a visit to Liam’s dad’s house, where we enjoyed some more snacks, some more presents, and some more games with friends and family. Unfortunately no pictures to share of that gathering, so instead I leave you with my 2nd favorite jenny-liam picture from the week, taken during the family pre-christmas-eve-dinner visit to the pub (something else I don’t think I’ve ever experience before):and there we are 🙂
Still more to share, but I’ll be back for round two of posting sometime later 🙂
Love you and miss you all!!