Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Top 10

"What is Betsy talking about?" you might be asking yourself..."top ten what? Did I miss something?" In fact, you have reason to be wondering what's up with this "top ten" business. And no, this is in no reference whatsoever to Davis Letterman and his hilarious top ten lists that always make me laugh. I am talking about my top ten things that I love and do not have easy-access to over here in the beloved land of the French. Sometimes the mixing pot of America and its delicious, as well as unhealthy, food gives France a run for its money when it comes to me and my cravings. 

I obviously have nothing exciting to write about, so why not write about what's on my mind...FOOD. What else? By the way, I've had enough of chocolate. I'm over it, unless it is a complement to something else, like peanut butter or ice cream....oh peanut butter... This brings me to the list.

The following is a list of foods that I happen to love and rarely or never eat in Paris:

1. Mexican food. I miss my chicken fajitas and spicy queso from Herraduras. 

2. Peanut butter...need I say more? By the way, you can occasionally find peanut butter in the exotic food section in France. LOL. 

3. Ice cream. Yes, I know ice cream is abundant here. However, other than my McDo cones in October, I have had no ice cream since I was in the states in August. Mint Chocolate Chip has been on my mind lately. I do not buy it for several reasons, including that it is expensive as a single serving and I am cheap, there's no room in my freezer, and the family never buys it.

4.  Chewy Granola Bars: Peanut Butter 25% less sugar variety :) Basically, I just really like them. 

5. Popcorn. I am not talking about microwave popcorn. I don't even like that stuff, unless it is Kettle Corn. I am talking about the do-it-yourself on the stove, add your own butter delicious goodness. I attribute my excellent popcorn-making skills to both Karen and Lauren Lempe, and my father for always insisting that I make it better than him so I better make him some. 

6. Peanut Butter M&M's. I consider these tiny miracle-in-your-mouth candies to be heaven sent. They are just so good. Thanks mom for sending me some already. However, don't do it too often because they disappear way too quickly. I can't stay away. 

7. Meijer. The convenience of everything in one store. Never thought I'd miss it. Don't get me wrong. I love the charm of a shop for everything: cheese, wine, bread, fruits, meat, toiletries, etc., but sometimes I  just want to go to Meijer, get what I need, and get out, at any hour of the night, any day of the week. I just realized I'm writing a Top Ten List about food and that Meijer is, in fact, a store and not a food item. I will rationalize it. Meijer sells even has its own brand. It does not get deleted from the list.
Alert: This list has officially changed from being solely about foods to things in general that I miss, simply because I cannot think of enough food to list. 

8. Singing in my car. I do not sing well...not horribly, but definitely not well. However, I love to sing in my car. Who doesn't? When I'm all alone in my car I love to blast the music and sing as loud as I can, sometimes holding a pen or cellphone as if it were my microphone. Watch out American Idol... I'm pretty sure that I would be regarded as one of the crazy homeless people of Paris if I started singing on the metro.

9. Mother language. I LOVE FRENCH. Obviously. I love learning it, I love hearing it, I love speaking it... But, it really does become tiring sometimes. If I am not consciously trying to understand what another person is saying, it becomes like static to me. It is not background noise like a television that I can half listen to. I have to focus on listening. If someone says something to me and catches me off guard, I can never immediately respond because I have to think about it first, thus pointing out that I am, in fact, an English speaker. To watch a movie or the television is becoming easier, but I definitely have to focus, and if there is other noise, well, my focus is lost and it's all over. 

10. Family and friends. This includes my dogs. I miss you all. Really. It is not easy being so far away. Thank goodness I have so many people that I am close to over here. Also, Skype is the best for communicating. It does not seem like I am more than an ocean away. There are so many mornings when I take my coffee that I wish I could be sipping it and talking with my mom.

And there it is. My Top Ten Foods I Miss/ Things I Miss in General.  Sorry it changed mid-list. The truth is that I love it over here and could definitely survive. But every once in awhile a girl just wants to belt out a song in her own car or eat some spicy Mexican food. 

Tis the season of SOLDES (aka sales)

In almost every store window in Paris right now one can spot the word "SOLDES." This does not mean that something was sold, but that there are sales. "Sale" just happens to be one of my favorite words. I can honestly say that I have not bought much for myself in Paris other than toiletries and food up to this point. Thanks to the soldes, I just went to H & M and bought myself three sweaters and some new slippers all for 40 euro. I did need some more sweaters. It is colder here than I thought. At least it feels colder, brought on by the fact that I spend a lot of time outside. I have never appreciated a warm scarf so much. I do not plan to spend a lot more money at these semi-annual sales, but maybe I will take one or two more trips into the stores before they are finished. After all, the next soldes start in July!

Bonne Annee!

Bonne Annee! Or Happy New Year (A few weeks late)! The week following Christmas was excellent, thanks to my trip south. The Tuesday morning before the New Year, I boarded an airplane, destination: Nice. Olivier picked me up at the airport and we went to his parents house where I stayed for almost the next week. I must admit that I was really nervous...first time meeting the parents of a new boyfriend is hectic enough...add the fact that they're French and I wasn't sure how much I would understand, and you can see why I was especially nervous. Let's just say my hands were sweating...a lot. Olivier assured me there was nothing to be scared of, that they were nice people. Lucky for me, it was true. They were very nice and welcoming...even the dogs. I arrived, took my bags upstairs, and right away, got to know the family. Thank goodness I am in France for this, the country where no event is complete without a little wine, champagne, etc. We sat around the coffee table, talking and sipping kir royal (champagne with raspberry or current liqueur). The lunch was served and the talking continued. I couldn't help but continually glance at the perfect view of the Mediterranean out the back windows. And thus began my week on the French Riviera. Here is the view from Olivier's bedroom window.

Olivier was a marvelous tour guide of his native region, driving me all along the coast and through the hilly terrain. Throughout the week we visited Antibes (where his parents live), Nice, Monaco, Cannes, the medieval village of Eze, and the medieval village of Saint Paul de Vence. These medieval villages are situated at higher elevations, as was necessary for protection back when they were established. They had great views of the riviera. This is a picture from Antibes at sunset. 

And here is a picture of Antibes that I took while on a walk in the city. 

This was taken from the top of Eze. However there was so much fog that day that we missed out on one of the best views of the French Riviera. Oh well. I liked the fog...I thought it was mystical. 

This is Cannes. It was so windy that day we only went for a short walk. Our ears hurt from the cold wind. 

These are taken from Saint Paul de Vence. 

I truly enjoyed spending time with his family. I was not uncomfortable around them, except for the nervousness in the very beginning. His mom cooked several delicious meals for us. I was able to try several traditional French dishes for the first time, as well as many desserts and drinks. I loved the scallops, coquille St. Jacques, which was my first lunch there. I think my favorite dessert was the Tarte Tatin, which is a special, upside-down apple tart. Yummm! I enjoyed my coffee and toast in the morning looking at the Mediterranean. The last morning there it was warm enough to comfortably sit outside in my pajamas and enjoy the sun. 

Another exciting point of the trip was New Years Eve in Italy with Olivier's friends. No, not Rome, Florence, Venice, etc. I'm talking about the Alps. We stayed at a tiny summer cabin in the mountains. I don't even know the name of the town. I guess I can describe it best by calling it "rustic." It was charming, however there were some issues that make our NYE a good story. We got there just at nightfall and walked from our cars to the cabin for ten minutes in the snow carrying all of our supplies, including our suitcases, food, and lots of champagne, wine, etc. Once we were finally there, we were pretty cold. No worries, we thought, we'll start the space heaters and the fire and things will be warmed up in no time at all. Haha. Here is my little NYE equation. Space heaters on = blowing fuses => no heat in bedroom = very cold night. Luckily the fire in the fireplace and drinks warmed us up before long. Next news of the night: the toilet was frozen and we had to go to the bathroom outside in the snow. How Fun! Just like camping, but a little more rustic and definitely colder than what I'm used to. We ended up having a wonderful night despite the cold and outdoor facilities, or lack thereof. We came back the next evening, after the guys cooked shrimp outside on a stone slab over a fire. The shrimp was amazing... and HUGE! I think shrimp is bigger over here. However, I really do not know, since I had never tried shrimp before my arrival in France in August. Here we are bringing in the new year. 

Saturday night arrived way too quickly. I had to leave for the airport the next morning before 6 am. I will definitely be taking another trip to the region before long. It was a wonderful way to start 2010.