Monthly Archives: August 2014

Le Grand Marché

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Château d’Amboise

Today I went on an adventure with French friends. It was an enjoyable day, but also an exhausting day because we spoke exclusively in French. My head felt like it was going to explode for most of the day. Our adventure began with a visit to le Grand Marché in Amboise. This was not my first visit to the town of Amboise. In 2007 when I was studying abroad in Tours I took a “field trip” to the Château d’Amboise. It was my first château and I had a great time visiting.

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Le Grand Marché

Unlike when I was a student in 2007 I have much more consistent access to a car, making it easier to venture outside of Tours. From what I was told, the market in Amboise was one of the biggest in the area. It was interesting, much more of a flea market than a farmer’s market. We walked through the whole market but did not find anything to buy. My favorite part of the market: seeing all the dogs out with their families. There is definitely an abundance of puppies throughout this area of France.

After venturing through the market we wandered around the “downtown” area and visited a few shops. There were a few cute shops, but nothing overwhelmingly adorable. We decided to get lunch and spent about half an hour wandering around Amboise trying to decide on a restaurant. Eventually, we ended up at one of the first restaurants we visited.

Eating lunch in France is something that I am still not quite used to as it is a very relaxed and leisurely experience. Lunch can easily last 2 or 3 hours. Seriously, who has time for that?!?  Another aspect of lunch I am still trying to get used to is the copious amount of wine that is drunk. For example, today we had 4 bottles of wine with lunch. Four bottles! While I am still getting used to the French way of living it is always an enjoyable experience. Lunch was delicious, especially dessert.

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Lunch at La Reserve.

After lunch we wandered around for a little bit longer. It was a perfect day to just walk around and take in the sights. The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect, and  I was surrounded by friends. We visited  a church in Amboise (I read the name and made a mental note to remember it, but have since forgotten). What I found most interesting was that the church just reopened in 2010, so it was something that I did not see the last time I was in Amboise.

After a bit of walking we went back to the car for our trip back to Tours. Our adventure was concluded with drinks at a friend’s house. It was an extremely relaxing day. What I found even more exciting was the fact that Joëlle and I have a lot in common and she offered to take me on adventures throughout the Loire Valley. I’m excited to have another friend in the area (and the fact that she has a car is only a bonus)!

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Bon Apétit!

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DSCF1648 Here is a sampling of my latest culinary adventures in France. Benoît and I continue to cook together most nights. Matt’s work schedule was insane this week, so unfortunately he was not able to eat with us during the week. Last night was the first dinner that we ate in a restaurant. It’s quite challenging for me to find true meals when I go to a restaurant in France, as the French are still not very sure of how to feed a vegetarian.

For example, yesterday Matt and I went to the 5G for a cocktail break during our afternoon errands. Because it was in the middle of the afternoon, the kitchen was closed. However, we were feeling kind of snacky. Céline offered to make us a small snack of baguette with tapenade. Given my understanding of tapenade, I had a feeling there were anchovies in it. To be polite, I took a bite of it and automatically got a fishy taste in my mouth. We then inquired as to the ingredients of the tapenade. Céline went to get the jar from the kitchen and read the ingredients to us. Sure enough, there were anchovies in it. I then tried to explain that if there were anchovies in it that I could not eat it, as I was a vegetarian. Céline seemed confused by this, as anchovies are just “little fish” and therefore, not meat.DSCF1591

After several minutes of trying to explain that even though the fish were little they were still once a living thing with a face we decided to agree that we had different understandings of what it meant to be a vegetarian. However, she felt bad that I could not eat the snack, so she offered to bring us a cheese plate. It was very kind of her and much appreciated.

Late in the day after going to the final Apéro Classique we decided to eat at a restaurant rather than at home. Matt knows the owner and chef of the restaurant. As a result, I was able to get a delicious vegetarian meal that was not on the menu. This is an extreme rarity in France.

Below you will find an assortment of pictures depicting all of the recipes we have made this week.

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Stir Fry with Tofu

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Moroccan Stew

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Ramen Noodle Stir Fry

Only in France

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DSCF1374Since my arrival in France I have been admiring the Grande Roue (Ferris Wheel)from both afar and up close. However, like the rest of France, there was no signage indicating the hours of operation. For several days the Grande Roue was operating pretty regularly. Then Matt and I decided to go and ride it. And here is where the trouble began. Each day we would walk into the centre of Tours only to discover that the Grande Roue was not operating. We would run our errands and then stop by the Grande Roue on our way home, in the hope that it had opened. However, it never did.

At night, while walking Matt to work, we noticed that the Grande Roue was operating, even in the rain. We then made it our mission to ride the Grande Roue yesterday. Keep in mind that I am a very organized and detail-oriented individual and have researched many times the history of the Grande Roue and the dates of operation. Multiple sources indicated that it operated through the month of September. THROUGH the month of September.

With this information, imagine my surprise yesterday as we were walking into the centre of Tours to discover that the Grande Roue had gone missing overnight. Matt and I were walking on the foot bridge looking in the direction of the Grande Roue, only to see the base was all that remained. Only in France would something that is scheduled to operate through the month of September unexpectedly cease to exist on Thursday, August 28th. Only in France!

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The good news is that the Grande Roue will make another appearance around Christmas. Matt and I have already sworn that we will dedicate an entire day to sitting in the vicinity of the Grande Roue until we ride it. In the dead of winter.

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I Think I Can, I Think I Can…

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Even though I am completely content and at peace in France, I still have moments where I doubt my decision to take a leave of absence from my career in the United States. However, each time I have these moments of doubt, I am completely overcome by everything that I find myself surrounded by each day.

For the first time in my life I am following my dreams and not thinking about the financial aspect of doing so. While it is true that I would be making significantly more money in the United States, I would not be gaining the experiences and insights that living abroad will offer. My days in France have shown me just how capable I am of making my dreams a reality. I have also come to appreciate and love my family and friends in a new way. The continuous support, words of encouragement, and love I have been shown makes it easier for me to follow my dreams.

Since arriving in France just over one week ago I have become a much more confident individual. I have made many new connections and have pushed myself to try so many new things in a relatively short period of time. Matt and I were talking the other day and he mentioned how much more confident I seem in my ability to speak French. There are still moments when I am interacting with French people that I have to step back and reflect upon the progress that I have made as a French speaker. By no means is my French pretty (I still think I sound like a drunk 4-year-old), but I am taking the risk to speak with native speakers, knowing that even when I make mistakes they will help me to learn from them (without judgement).

In summary, thank you to everyone. Thank you for your help throughout this scary period of my life. Thank you for believing in me when I did not believe in myself. Thank you for encouraging me to follow my dreams.

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Adventures

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My life in France thus far has been filled with adventures and new experiences. While some days are more eventful than others, each day brings new challenges to my life. Below are some pictures of my adventures so far. This post is going to be more like a photo entry than a journal entry.

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Lunch at “Le Bon Bec” or as it is now called “5 G.” It was great being able to catch up with Céline.

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Le Monstre. Notice the resemblance. No matter where I am in Tours, I always think I know where le monstre is located but I am very rarely correct.

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Apéro Classique: drinking wine and listening to classical music at Hôtel du Grand Commandement

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Taking a carriage tour of Tours. It was a different perspective of the town.

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First attempt at riding the Ferris Wheel. It was unsuccessful. However, tonight when walking by (in the rain) it was open…

Many more adventures to come. This is just the beginning, but it makes me hopeful for an awesome year abroad. Just over one week in France and I am having a great time and the most mundane activities have become exciting for me.

And I Helped!

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One of my favorite things to do is cook. I don’t so much enjoy eating, but I find the act of cooking to be very therapeutic. Also, being a vegetarian, I am always excited when I find someone who is willing to try vegetarian foods. With those two ideas in mind, this past weekend I had a great time cooking with Benoît.

Matt works on the weekends, so normally Benoît is alone on Friday and Saturday. This gives us the opportunity to get to know each other better and create a friendship independent of Matt. Benoît and I decided that we are going to cook together every weekend and that the meals will always be vegetarian. Seeing as French food is not the most vegetarian friendly, I am excited for Benoît to show me some new recipes.

Our first dinner was “Lasagnes aux Légumes et au Gorgonzola.” It was a delicious meal, but not your traditional lasagna. More vegetables and less cheese. The great thing about cooking in France is that you continuously drink wine, so by the time the meal is done you are feeling pretty wonderful.

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Our second meal was “Crispy Black Bean Burgers.” Veggie burgers are practically impossible to find in France. I don’t feel the need to each veggie burgers often, but having the option is nice. However, I had never made my own veggie burgers. I have saved multiple recipes that I would like to try, but simply never had the time. Benoît had never had a veggie burger and was very excited to try one.  We had to modify the recipe, as we were unable to find black beans, so we use red beans instead. The veggie burgers had a good taste, but were more crumbly than I would have liked. Overall, it was also a good meal.

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I’m not sure what recipes we will be making this weekend, but I know that it will be a very enjoyable experience.

The First of Many Firsts

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While preparing for my year abroad I tried to set a number of goals for myself. Taking the risk of moving overseas was huge for me. On the outside, I seem very outgoing and motivated, but internally I am reserved and scared. The fact that I followed through on this opportunity was huge.

Another goal that I set was to truly immerse myself in the language and culture, which also means that I will speak only in French. This goal was relatively easily achieved beginning on my first day, as there was a French family visiting Matt and Benoit for a few days. If you ever want to test your ability to speak another language try interacting with children who speak that language. Wow! That was a challenge. By the time the family left I was interacting with them comfortably (while still making mistakes, but being okay with that).

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I also would like to do at least one new thing each day. Some days will be more monumental than others. The task might be as simple as going to the mailbox alone (which I did!). Another relatively major first was playing pétanque. I had taught my students about pétanque, I had seen pétanque played in movies, but I had never actually tried playing it.

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Needless to say, pétanque was everything I had hoped it would be. I was surprisingly good at it, much like feather bowling. We started out having three people on each team (one child per team). Watching tiny French children play pétanque was one of the cutest things I have ever seen!

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I know there will be many more firsts throughout the year and I am eager for each of them!

The Flight

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After the suitcases were repacked it was time to head to the airport. The drive there was relatively smooth, with only small pockets of traffic. Once we got to the airport it truly started to feel like the beginning of my adventure. Checking in for my flight went relatively smoothly (once I was able to find a kiosk that was working).

Before going through security I spent a little more time with my family. Security was quick and painless. Made it through security and found my gate. I had a little bit of time before I had to board my plane so I went to Vino Volo for a glass of wine. I have visited many bars and restaurants in multiple airports, but this was my first time at a Vino Volo. It was very crowded. I found a seat and began looking at the menu. In addition to my glass of wine I decided that I would also have a bowl of soup, as it was vegetarian, which is difficult to find.

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While having my snack I began talking with the people next to me. There were two older women who were traveling to Norway and Denmark together, as well as a couple who was flying to Australia. We talked about many things, and when they found out I was going to be living in France for a year they were all very jealous. The woman traveling to Australia has a friend who runs a bed and breakfast just outside of Normandy and gave me her card so that we can keep in touch while I am in France. This was huge, as I am a very quiet and shy person. This proves the value of talking to strangers. 🙂

I then boarded my flight. Unfortunately, the flight was not direct. There was a brief layover in Atlanta (about 1 hour). The flight from Detroit to Atlanta was very short…much shorter than I thought it would be. What was cool about this flight was that I had a first class ticket! I didn’t know this, but when you order wine in first class, it is served to you in a glass wine glass.

Once I got to Atlanta I found my gate, which was a the opposite end of the airport. I made it with plenty of time to spare. I quickly checked in with my family and friends and then it was time to board the plane. Once again, I had a first class ticket. Oh my goodness! The first class seats on a plane for an international flight are a-maz-ing. I was greeted with champagne and a down-filled blanket. I settled in and was ready for the flight.

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Everything about the flight was perfect. I settled in and tried to sleep for a bit on the plane. I think my favorite thing about the flight was that my seat reclined into an almost bed. It was so incredibly comfortable!

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I arrived at the airport and made it through customs quickly and easily. My luggage took what seemed like forever to arrive, but it eventually did. I loaded up my cart and began the journey to the train station. I was able to successfully navigate Charles de Gaulle airport and purchase a train ticket, speaking only in French. I made it to the train, managed to get my bags on the train, and found my seat.

Overall, the day of traveling went relatively smoothly. Having had enough frequent flyer miles for a first class ticket it is going to be a difficult transition to return to coach. 😦

The Beginning

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On August 16, 2014 I began the adventure of a lifetime. My bags were packed, the tickets were bought, my plans were made. About an hour before I was to leave the country, my friends and family all panicked about the amount of luggage I would be taking with me. Remember, I will be living abroad for at least one year…that’s a lot of stuff!

So, with only moments to spare, my family and friends decided that it would make more sense to mail almost half of my belongings to France. While I completely agreed, I was not willing to spend even more money than I already had to get to France. However, my parents very, VERY generously agreed to pay for the mailing of my belongings.

This new discovery caused my carefully packed suitcases to be unzipped and torn apart in an effort to decide what to bring in the suitcase and what to mail. Needless to say, I am currently awaiting the arrival of my 48lb box.

This marks the beginning of my adventures in France. My next post will be about the adventures on the airplane.