Monday, April 20, 2009

bienvenue au cote

i just returned from a lovely two days on the cote! I visited Antibes on Sunday morning, and Cannes today! Antibes was absolutely amazing. lots and lots of impressionist artists came to cap d'antibes to be inspired! everywhere you look there are plaques showing a famous painting, indicated that someone painted in that exact spot! although it was raining and yucky out on Sunday, we went to the market and got a picnic lunch of tapenade, cheese, bread, and fruit and ate it under the umbrella. the beach was so beautiful, and vielle ville was gorgeous as well. it made me think of bermuda (although i've never been there, so who knows). On saturday night we walked back into the residential area of antibes - which was AMAZING! the flowers and plants were so pretty, and the houses were absolutely amazing. it was very quiet, with no restaurants or stores - just the houses and the sea! our hostel away from the town center, and was run by paulo - this friendly old man who ran the beautiful pink building facing the ocean. although the bathroom/shower/cot situation was bare minimum, there was TONS of young kids from all over europe and australia bumming around looking for work on the yachts that passed through antibes, cannes, monaco, etc. it was a great atmosphere because everyone was poor and living out of their backpacks, but so generous to fellow travelers! the boys were "lifting weights" outside using the picnic benches, and we all had a communal dinner together. after dinner me and my friend walked to nearby juan les pins, which had AMAZING beaches. we sat on some unused cabanas and watched the sunset! afterwards we were looking for a place to get a drink, but of course it was really expensive. we were talking to some french people our age about how expensive everything was, and they replied "bienvenue au cote". welcome to the riviera!

we ended up going to this funky place where they had live music. the guy playing the guitar was really nice and we had fun singing with them. they said we are welcome back anytime! we woke up this morning and paulo made us some coffee for breakfast. then we were off to cannes! cannes had beautiful beaches, but it was really expensive and not much to see. it is famous for the film festival, but other than the building where it takes place it is just designer stores and high class restaurants. we walked into the most expensive hotel in cannes and went exploring! we can pretend...

my camera ran out of batteries, but i found some pictures online to share. the map is cool, because where the square is is the center of Antibes, but our hotel was on the southern tip. there was a really cool lighthouse on the southern tip, it reminded me of our family adventures to cape may! on the west was juan les pins, where we went sunday night. you can walk from juan les pins to antibes center in 45 minutes. obviously, i LOVED cap d'antibes and would work there on a yacht ANYDAY.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

joyeux anniversaire grace!

this is a post to commemorate the 21st birthday of grace fitzpatrick! because i miss her dearly and i will not be there to celebrate with her. AND equally important because she is a sweet, intelligent, funny, and amazing person! (i mean you have to be if you are my friend)

embarrassing picture required.

joyeux anniversaire grace! j'espere que tu passes une belle journée!

un diner americain

On thursday night, I cooked an american meal for my host family. What is an American meal, you ask? The only things I could come up with where pie, chili, meatloaf, and (GASP!) hamburgers. Straying away from the whole "americans-are-fat-and-all-we-eat-are-burgers" image, and frightened to death by the idea of trying to make a pie attempting to convert to the metric system, I went with the good ol' classic of meatloaf. Then I make asparagus and red peppers in a yummy sauce, and mashed potatoes! I was really nervous that they weren't going to like it - but it was a HUGE success! They were asking me how to make it and are going to take the recipe! They called the mashed potatoes, "potates purée" hehe.

For dessert, we made s'mores on the stove-top. Instead of graham crackers with Hershey's, we made s'more "tartines" and put the "chamellow" (love that word - it means marshmellow!) on top of a Petit Ecolier cookie. It was a really fun night. Although sometimes I feel frustrated because my host family keeps a distance from me sometimes, my host mom said the other night that I was like part of the family! I was so happy she said that, because out of everyone, she is the one who I didn't fully understand at first. Although she has her crazy theories and wild ways, she is really a generous hard-working woman and I'm lucky they are sharing their family with me!

feria d'arles

On monday we had the day off from school because of Easter. So me and too friends ventured off to Arles, the city of VanGogh. It was here that VanGogh painted The Café on the Terrace. (Bridget, recognize this!??) It was really cool to see, plus we got to see VanGogh's bedroom. It was tiny! The city has a lot of Roman influences. It is in Arles where you find a huge colosseum, just like the one in Rome! The feria d'arles is a festival like the ones in Spain, where there are "corridas" and running of the bulls. Me and my friends were crossing the street and nearly got run over by the bulls! That was a huge mistake, we were a little shaken up by that. People were everywhere singing in the streets, dancing, and drinking pastis. The environment was really cool! Although we didn't go to the corrida (they kill the bulls in this one) we walked by the colosseum and could hear the shouting that was going on inside! It was a neat experience to be in Arles for this fete.

huile d'olive

So yet another blog about food...and food tasting...what can i say i have to "profiter" as they say in france. My program hosted an olive oil tasting last week, and I learned a lot about it! France isn't thought of as a major producer of olive oils - it ranks 15th in the world with only 4,000 tons. Italy, Spain, and Greece produce the most in the world - France got a little behind because of a huge frost in 1956 that killed 2/3 of all its olive trees. Nonetheless, Provence is very famous for its olives and olive oils. When I go to the market, most people are selling olives, tapenades (crushed up olives put with different flavors like sundried tomatoes, anchovies, etc), or olive oil.

Jenna (the lady who was running the tasting) explained to us how much effort it takes just to produce a little bit of oil! That is why it is so expensive. It takes 5-7 kilos of olives to make 1 liter of olive oil! We tasted some oils from the region, which contain Aglandou, Saloneque, Grossance, Verdale, and Picholine olives. One of the oils, called Castelas-Maussane, tasted just like fresh cut grass! I thought it was disgusting, but Jenna told me that that was one of her most popular oils! We tasted the oil off of a little spoon; it was weird at first, but then I began to realize all of the different flavors in olive oil. They don't all taste the same! Jenna said she always has a teaspoon of oil olive before she drinks alcohol because it lines your stomach and protects you from getting drunk/hungover. Plus she uses it in salad dressing, with vegetables, cooking, anything! But she warned us that when you cook the olive oil the taste changes. I wonder if any French olive oils are available in the US? (Hannah beautiful picture...I stole it! tres bien fait cherie)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

joyeuses paques

happy easter everyone!! while it is weird to be in France on easter - the first time without my family - it is nice to see how the french celebrate the holiday. my host family is not religious, but we hid eggs in the garden this morning and and went looking for them. it's raining today, but it was still fun!! spring has sprung in provence and the flowers are beautiful! tons of purples and yellows :)

this morning i went to the little church next to my house - it was very friendly and welcoming! they teach the songs before mass starts so everyone can sing along. i really liked it because everyone seemed to know each other really well. the only weird thing was that no one was dressed up! I wore a dress and everyone else was wearing normal casual clothes. my roomate wrote me a really sweet note and gave me some candy too! she is so nice. plus my best friend here, who is jewish, offered to have a meal together to celebrate. it was funny when we both realized that the normal easter foods - bagels, ham, chocolate - are not allowed to be eaten by those observing passover. we are both learning about each other's religion! i am fortunate to have met some very great people here :)

i hope everyone has a great easter!!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

"studying" for photography

i love these pics! we are learning about photography and literature - and i am particularly interested in the existentialiste/humaniste movement. it's so cool! beautiful pictures...i had to share :)

les amoureux par robert doisneau
laila par eduard boubat
petit parisien by willy ronis

"je me souviens de Paris casquettes et chapeaux melons et de Paris révolté, Paris humilié, Paris bigots-bourgeois, Paris putains mais Paris secret et puis Paris barricades, Paris ivre de joie, et voici Paris bagnotes, Paris combines, Paris jogging..."

-Robert Doisneau

Monday, April 6, 2009

les gorges du verdon

Today, j’ai passé un tres bon dimanche! Comme habitude ☺ I went on another Georges trip, this guy who does tours around Provence and has a very thick southern accent. He took us to Les Gorges du Verdon, the biggest canyon in Europe! It was beautiful, and reminded me a lot of Norway. The lake in front of the gorge is artificial, but that is because they created a dam to control the water flow. We relaxed there and soaked up some sun, and then we went to a little village called Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. It was such a beautiful town, and at the top of the top there was a beautiful church. We went exploring for a little while, and then it started pouring raining! Me and my friend Hannah got some ice cream and coffee in a little restaurant looking out into the village before heading back to Aix. I am loving the warmer weather, plus it doesn’t get dark until 8pm now! I posted a picture of Aix - the town where I live. It is a picture of the Cours Mirabeau, the main road in my town. tres jolie...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

la camargue

Yesterday I took a day trip to Camargue with the people in my program, The Camargue is near the city of Arles, but situated more south on the base of the Rhone river. It is mainly agricultural land - the area is famous for its production of rice and salt. In the center and south of Camargue it is a National Park with tons of marshland full of various wildlife. Supposedly the area is abundant flamingos - but I only saw a few unfortunately. They also have beautiful white horses! Although, because of previous brave attempts to conquer my fear of horses (near death experiences with Tony and Ashley in PA), I did not participate in horseback riding. But hey I took pictures of my friends doing it!?!? Instead of trekking through the marsh on smelly and dangerous animals, we went to a little town in the Camargue called Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. This town is famous because the three Maries' - Mary Jacobé, Mary Salomé, and Mary-Magdalen supposedly were expelled from Jerusalem on a boat that landed on les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The Gitans are a group of gypsies who come every year in May for a pilgrimage to this little town. The town was really charming, and right on the beach! I checked out the church, grabbed a baguette, and relaxed in the soleil. It was a great afternoon!

The Camargue is also associated with le guardiens, which are bull rearers. There are tons of bulls in the Camargue ! We went to a see what the bulls were really like. Although I had no idea what to expect, we went to les arenes in a little town to watch a bull show, called la course camarguaise. The town was absolutely charming, and we were the only tourists there! All these old men with dark provencal skin were welcoming us and teaching us the rules of the game. There was a live band playing music from the opera Carmen as we walked in. The rasteurs are the men who try to pull these little strings off of the bulls' horns using a crochet, which is a spiky weapon they hold in their hands. It was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen, when the bull was attacking them they ricocheted themselves off the walls and grabbed onto the side banisters to avoid the bulls horns! I have never seen anything like it. I happened to fall in love with one rasteur, Matthieu Marquier! What a stud. Agile, athletic, and a bull-fighter! What more could a girl want?