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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Monday, January 30, 2012

My Night in China

I can count the days on my fingers before I train it to Paris, and it is passing by quickly.  As Bri isn't here, I'm been busying myself with packing suitcases for Paris (we're doing a move via TGV, more to come later), eating with girlfriends and partying.


Let me rephrase that, utterly destroying my French Master's friends with bottles upon bottles of alcohol.

How much alcohol?

About this much.. for those who need a count, that's about 8 bottles of wine, plus a boxed wine (3 bottles), two full bottles of liquer, an 1/8 of a bottle of Absinthe... plus later into cleaning I uncovered 4 more bottles of wine.

Roughly, 11,25 liters of 12% alcohol, and about 2 liters of hard alcohol.  For about 16 people... so.. a lot.

This was the end to a very long week, one event at the Chamber of Commerce in Paris, one morning of terrible illness and then a train at 6am the next day.

All in all I was thrilled when my good Chinese friend, Qingyun, invited me for a free Chinese dinner at some of her close friends.  
The minute we walked into the restaurant, I could see it was clean and family oriented.  Bisous passed around, Qingyun began rapid fire Mandarin with the chef and then her herself pointed to a giant bucket of dinosaur-looking body parts.

"We are going to eat chicken feet tonight!" I smiled, I wasn't shocked, this is exactly what I wanted to eat. I had heard about for years from my Sister, and I was thrilled to eat with the family and be a part of the experience.

The chef's jacket was a little too large.
The kitchen was covered with the dense smells of spices, I noted around me, ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon, salt, pepper, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce...  The chef expertly used his giant spoon to eyeball out the quantities and toss into his wok that he tossed around as though it weighed nothing.  A giant chef's knife laid on the chopping board, which he's used to chop the toes off the chicken feet, mince up the vegetables.

I watched with intrigue as I realized this dinner wasn't a little dinner, they had made about 5 different dishes.  2 dishes were crab based, one short ribs, one chicken feet, another with mussels, fresh baby peas.  Qingyun jumped on the wok and began doing the same, I sat back afraid to touch anything, but observing nonetheless.

"You like spicy?" She smiled at me, "Most white people don't like too spicy, the French like sweet or bland..." I nodded, of course I loved spicy.  I used to eat jalapenos on my eggs for breakfast!

Finally the meal was coming together, the chef adding the finishing touches, a dash of salt, a ladle full of sauce:
Adding the sauce
Presenting the Crab Dish
I sat at the table, set before me a completely luxurous meal...
Two types of crab, (the mussels and feet came after)
I ate SO MUCH!

Story is, if you wanna have some good Chinese, for not too expensive either A. Find a Chinese friend, or B. Go to Seng Heng in Lyon 3ème: http://www.webcity.fr/seng-heng-lyon/lieu

The owners are incredibly nice, patient and even though they've tried to branch out to Japanese specialities, try to ask for the typical Chinese dishes; dumplings.. Very high quality, clean kitchen and gentille staff.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

First Discoveries in Paris (Like as a 'habitant' et not 'tourist')

Well, it's been a long long weekend... well okay it's technically Wednesday today, but I feel like I have been non-stop since I hopped the train to Paris on Friday morning.

The goal?  Well first off to meet with the American Chamber of Commerce, secondly to apartment hunt for the big move in February.  As soon as I stepped off the train I realized the potential in Paris.. inspiration for my blog! There were so many things that I had to hunt for online, so many unanswered questions... I realized that this move is not only the next step in my life, but the next step to network, help others, and grow!

For example.. Consignes.  Had no idea what the word meant, but I realized that is was totally a necessary word when I decided to not lug my luggage around Paris.

The biggest differences between Lyon and Paris, during my short little pre-visit:

  1. Sheer size equation.  1 step in Lyon = 5 steps in Paris.  See, when I got around to analysing the map, and trying to figure out the RATP system, I figured, hey, that's not so far... I'll just walk it (like I do in Lyon).  WRONG.  I ended up walking... walking... walking... seriously.  My butt hurt when I hopped the 6:30 train back to Lyon on Monday morning.
  2. Mulitude of foreign shops.  I didn't realize how many shops were in Paris until I stepped out of the métro and saw everything I've been craving:  Chinese Traiteur shops, indian take-away, foreign grocery marts.  I discovered Rue St Anne... Needless to say for a foreign person it's literally a haven.  In Lyon we are limited to Asiatique shops in Guillotière, which my Chinese friend tells me is ran by Cambodians, sushi shops spattered about, which my Japanese friends tell me is ran by Chinese.
  3. Internationals. Everywhere. On the métro, I heard all walks of life- Russian, American, British... Paris is a hub for international expatriates.
  4. Métro trajet.  Normally the trajet in Lyon is about a 2 minute ride between stops, about 1 km.  In paris the métro hops about 3 km and takes about 4 minutes.  I literally spent like 40% of my time transferring in and out of métros.
And in my little discoveries that I made, in just three days, I realized how much I could teach to other expatriates going to either Paris OR Lyon.  Seriously!

Another reason I went to Paris was to sign the apartment contract for the apartment Bri lovingly hunted.  I was freaked out to sign for a place I never saw, but amazingly it went well... and already has a histoire.

The Chilean Apartment Owner
It was Saturday, 3PM, Bri took me out on our new streets to discover the beginnings of our new neighborhood and sign the apartment papers.  15 minutes into our walk, I was already beginning to feel a bit tired, but I pressed on, matching the pace with the speed-walking heel-wearing girls zipping past me.  Turn.  Straight.  Left.  Straight.  "Are we there yet?" I whined, getting exceedinly irritable as I was famished, thirsty and stressed to sign an apartment I'd never seen.  We turned a corner, and suddenly we were on a gastronome's dream even Cyrnosky probably turned in his grave.  I counted as we headed towards our apartment.  2 boucheries, 2 boulangeries, fromagerie, poissonnerie, patisserie... it was endless.  Fruiterie, floriste.  Wine shop.  All within a 5 minute walk from my new apartment.  Another corner, "See!", he pointed towards a badly designed building, upon entry smelled of cigars and perhaps slight urine-y?

I kept an open mind and headed up the stairs to the 2nd floor, as we greeted the owner I noticed the accent.  Chilean.  He introduced me to his wife, Claire, French, and started going off about the work he was doing, how it was important the apartment looked nice, how excited he was... I was left with Claire and she began to talk to me in perfect accented English.

"So, you come from America?  I once lived in San Francisco, I did an exchange there many years ago..." she trailed off glancing at me curiously, I took this as my cue, "Well, actually yes!  I come from Portland.. although I haven't been back in almost 2 years.  I love Paris so far.. lovely city really..."

Not sure how, but apparently that last phrase opened the I'll tell you all the personal gritty details about my family and my Chilean husband.  Off she went!  Husband died when she was 40, moved to Paris to nurse a broken heart, two young girls, met her Chilean lover who was also going through a divorce and had a child.  Odd family sort of stuck together through the years.  Husband's son is a director.. you know.. little projects... although he was married to an American.  Awful girl.  From New York.  Spoiled, father very protective.  She wanted to be a designer.. these closets were picked by her actually.  Oh you didn't know?  They lived here for 12 years together.  Now I think they are divorcing, she is back in New York and he's with a Romanian girl.

Well.  I didn't really have a story to match that, and thankfully the boys returned from business talks before I had to.

But.. it felt like an odd international family, and I actually liked the couple... a lot.  Even the Chilean said,
"Vous voyez?  Nous sommes une famille des internationaux.  Américaine, Chiléan, Français, Romaine.. internationaux!"

We arrived at 3:15pm and we ended up signing and leaving around 5:15pm.

Here are some photos of the new place:
Our Terrace..

The New York 'Closet' / Main Room

Main entry 
My kitchen.. only downside is the outdated appliances

Finally a BIGGER bath tub!

Even though the front of OURS is ugly.. the view we have is quite nice

Dinner the night after signing... 'Cantine des Tontons', and a giant BOAR head.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

10 Commandments of Living in France

  1. Thou shall eat carbs:
    1. Baguette
    2. Croissants
    3. Pain au Chocolat
    4. Cookies
    5. Toast
    6. Biscottes...
  2. Thou shalt say "Bonjour" and "Au revoir" every time thou enter and leave a commercant
  3. Thou shalt wash thy clothes and dry thy clothes during a period of 3 days, or more.
  4. Thou shalt wear high heels,
  5. Thou shalt NOT in ANY circumstance wander around in hiking boots and mis matched knee high socks*
  6. Thou shalt look where thy walkest or else face the wrath of dog poop
  7. Thou shalt bike meniacally and ring thy bell over, and over, and over.....
    1. Thou shalt do the same if driving
  8. If there is bread, thou shalt eat cheese, if there is cheese thou shalt demand for more bread
  9. If thou feelst full, thou shalt eat two more courses, AND digestif.. to induce a crise de foie
  10. Thou shalt kiss the cheeks of thy neighbors, once on each side, upon arrival and departure.
*Yes I've done this.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Midnight in Lyon..

It's been one year and a half that I've lived in Lyon, and I realized recently that I've never discovered or lived in Lyon alone!

Bri is in Paris starting his new job and apartment hunting, I'm stuck in Lyon for my Master's program until the beginning of February... and so yesterday I decided to go and venture around my city.

I'd never been to the Musée Gadagne since I moved to Lyon, but I mean a free entrance to a museum for a Lyon Gastronomie display?  I couldn't resist.  I packed a compote and a bottle of water, my journal and my walking boots; off I was on my very own to a Lyonnais museum!

Les Toques Blanches de Lyon (in my garden!)

It was lovely to walk through the city at my own pace, in silence, listening to the people around me.  It was in the actual exhibit that I was enamoured, posters of food, photos of the famous Cuisiniers and Cuisinières, I looked at every single detailed menu, watched every black and white video.  The exhibit is not that impressive, in regards to actual 'gastronomy', but there were a few things I picked up on and tucked away in my journal:

When visiting the musée Gadagne, I can almost imagine myself with the famous Gourmands of Lyon.  A sort of "Midnight in Lyon", instead of the 'high time' with artists and painters in Paris, it is a Golden Age of eating and gourmandises.  Lyon was for foodies what Paris was for artists... while artists and writers were indulging in social abnormalities, the foodies were just doing what they do best... eating!
Even though Julia Child mentions that Paris was an amazing culinary hot-spot, even the great Curnosky wrote, Lyon est la capitale mondiale de gastronomie.  Can't argue with the Prince of Gourmand!

La Mère Brazier
I was amazed at the culinary freedom of the 1920's and 1930's and longed to jetset back in time to sit at a table with Mère Brazier, Mère Fillioux and Curnosky...

What's more incredible is the feminism so prevalent in this era- why do I say this?  Because women truly were the creators of the Lyon Gastronomy!  I stared at the photos, imagining the times... there was respect to these women because they could cook.  These women, the lost generation of the culinary world in Lyon were the epitomy of feminism.  Enormous amounts of respect were doted upon their culinary confections, and they remain important and engrained in Lyon history!

So potentially in France... if you can cook you can earn respect?

But what is up with this whole Lyon cuisine?  What was amazing was the distinctive contrast between the Bourgeois dishes (Brasserie Georges, etc) and the typical Bouchon (la Mère Jean) also known as La Cuisine Guignolesque which was for the hard workers.  One of the videos in the museum shows a report wandering around and asking locals:

Reporter:  Pensez-vous d'être un gourmand?
Man 1: Tout à fait que oui, nous sommes des plus grandes gourmands ici à Lyon... on adore les choses bonnes à manger, les cochonnailles, la viande... du vin.. du fromage...
Report: (Same question)
Older Woman: Mais oui!  Je suis une gourmande.. j'adore à manger!
I am not a personal fan of Bocuse... who has taken the idea of being a Foodie and capitalised it until it's just a bunch of carbon-copy restaurants with little or no creativity.  I love the simple, local, bouchons... with a pot du vins and a tender quenelle.

Les Toques Blanches.. les mères de Lyon.. Oh la la!

This move is going to be tough.


Friday, January 6, 2012

House Hunter's International: Video!

So, I have a fabulous Cousin in California who was able to figure out the DVr to Internet thing and, guess what... The video from my House Hunter's International experience is now online!!

Now all those in Europe without access to HGTV can see who I am exactly.

A warning, the video portrays me as a bit "catty"; in fact at times I seem like an outright Princess- they decided to cut it in that way and take out the parts where I seemed nice... at least that's what I tell myself.

Any ways, in watching myself and feedback... I've considered starting a video blog from the beginning of February (my move to Paris).  Internet is such a fabulous thing, I feel like I can give advice better via a visual process.

Enjoy!  (The video takes a few minutes to load)


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Inspiration from Julia Child

As I was re-watching yet another episode of “The French Chef”, I couldn’t help but realize that I was literally following in the same footsteps of “The Chef” herself.  See, according to her book, “My Life in Paris”, (which I’ve only read, let’s say 5 or 6 times… until it got destroyed by a toilet flood.  I was willing to save it, but the wilted cover and the reeking pages told me not too.) Julia Child has to follow her love Paul around the world for his government attaché position.

Granted Julia had about 25 years on me, a gigantesque apartment overlooking the waterfront on “Roo de Loo”, and a much larger disposable income for all of the beautiful copper pots and pans Paul was willing to indulge, I find myself coming to the end of a séjour in my own little Paris.  In less than 3.5 weeks I will find myself kitchenless, gadgetless and about 200 sq ft less in the actual city of Paris.. for what other reason than to follow my Government workin’ Bri… and of course to discover new opportunities of my own… I could never be “one of those American housewives that sit around the house WONDERING what to do!” Like Julia I must be kept busy, find my passion.

What’s fabulous however is now I get to discover the “Real Paris”.  My fear, however, is that the Paris painted in such a romantic way by Julia’s interpreter (she was older when she got around to talking about her life) will only leave me exasperated and gulping for air.  All of the culinary delights that I would have wanted to discover have only been publicized and commercialized.  I looked at potentially going to that famous Cordon Bleu, but unlike Julia Child, when faced with the price I couldn’t just say, “Le prix est peu important!” I quickly clicked the x button on that window.

Bri keeps telling me that I have a talent, that it’s more than just “You cook because we have to eat, it’s like you cook because you love to cook!”, It’s true that I have always had a passion for cooking.  I remember being a toddler and crawling into my mother’s spice cupboard to stick my little nose in the spice rack.  I’d close my eyes, take a deep smell and remember the name… of course there were times it was a bad idea (like the big whiff of Cayenne Pepper). So maybe this change will spark even more of the passion in my soul, perhaps I will shout from the Parisien rooftops “Bon APPETIT!”

So as the countdown continues and my days in Lyon are numbered I am trying to look through the eyes of Julia Child… I mean Julia would never have been Julia without her perseverance, intelligence, ability to adapt to any situation, optimism… and of course Paul Child.

Who knows, maybe I can become the next generation of Julia… of course it would only transpire the passion and never be capable of meeting the same level… there are just too many wanna-be gastronomes… although I would love to be the founder of the next Gourmandes, except this time for the young gourmands.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Eve + Bri's Depart

It's 2012 and I am only reminded of 2010 when Bri and I were separated for 8 months while I finished my Undergraduate in Oregon.  It was a ridiculously difficult time and as I kissed him goodbye today all the feelings of the 'goodbyes' and the 'see you soons' came rushing back like a dam refilling with water.

I have plenty to do, plenty to study for, plenty to prepare for... but I can only think that I'll be living off of 'sad person soup' for the next few days (I made a giant pot yesterday) and studying on my own.

To remember the good times I have to talk about my New Year's Eve!  It is the 3rd New Year's Eve in France and my 4th in Europe... and it was a great celebration.

Normally we spend it tucked away in Genas with the parents, a little 'coupette' of Champagne and a fabulous dinner.  This year, considering Bri would be leaving, we decided to spend some time with his close friends and welcome the new year with tons of food and smiling faces.

Me, Olivier (Bri's closest friend), and I THINK Clement?
As we all spoke in French and they ooed and awed over my "good french", I equally complemented their Frenglish and we chined and chined until we were so drunk we could barely walk straight.

Two Hostesses: Tiphane and her sister!
It was a shared cost meal, and without saying we truly enjoyed the night with close friends.
Me, Bri and Olivier... Bri was very happy!
The most difficult of course, was the next day.  A bit of a hangover, a large lunch... yikes.

2012 came and passed, then the sad day of Bri's departure was fast arriving.  As would any 'victim' I prepared him a 'last meal' upon request.

"Feuilleté des Escargots"
Porc Roti (cocotte) and Gratin Daupinois
Chocolate Lava Cake

Bri leaves.... :(
So, he left yesterday morning on the 10am train to Paris... and now I have to wait... in the mean time- hair appointment on Thursday!  Partiel exams for two weeks! Plan to go and get my Carte de Séjour (yuck).  There is literally so much to do, it feels like time in Lyon is already slipping through my fingers...

So here it goes, 2012!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

House Hunter's International Tryout Video

Today (10:30pm Central time) HGTV aired our show we filmed in September 2011.

For those who don't have cable, here was our video we sent in to get selected:


Vive la France!!

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