Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Morocco: beautiful chaos.

I've been stuck in France for a while, haven't I? There's a ton of great experiences to write about France left, and Italy for two weeks after that, but first here's a little distraction. Our trip was just so overwhelming and so rich with experience that it's hard to me to write about in one little column. After all, we have 5,000 pictures!

We took the ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco and were met by Andy's aunt and her friend to visit their home in Rabat. We had an amazing visit, like nowhere I've ever been before. It was a crazy and beautiful country, with kind people and a completely different way of living.

Bargaining is a part of culture...and I hate it! I'm twirling my hair out of sheer stress.

Henna in Rabat with Aunt Sue

Andy bought a pair of boots from these guys for a great price!

Lambs everywhere, being taken home to be fattened up for the Eid.

Our cooking class in an old riad in Meknes. It was so fun!

Our home cooked meal: baked chicken with preserved lemons and olives, with a lentil stew, and fresh bread. And of course, mint tea.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

so much dolce, so little time!

The last twelve days have been oh so dolce, oh so sweet!

We left Burgundy with a bang after exploring Dijon with my aunt and uncle and eating a fabulously memorable French meal at Les Oenophiles, one that summed up all that we imagined French cuisine to be at its best. We had to hurry from the restaurant to catch our overnight train, and we fell into our sleeper bunks with bellies and hearts full.

(One sad note: I put a hazelnut cookie into my jacket pocket as we were leaving the restaurant, "for later," then used it as a pillow cover on the train. When I woke up and put it on, Andy pointed out three big butter and nut-oil stains across the front and back! They haven't come out, and I'm still wearing it.)

Let's just say that after two weeks in France, I am in love with some very delicious French food: baguettes, butter, foie gras, Kir Royale, lamb, multiple cheeses, chausson aux pommes...and any amuse-bouche that might pass these lips.

But moving on to Italy was just as good. Is there any other place in the world that I can justify having gelato three times a day? And three times we did, in Florence. Andy kept up his three-a-day while I brought myself back down to one.

In Venice, we found some excellent wood-fired pizza in a little area near our B&B. Right as you walked in, you saw an oval oven built into the wall, just doing its thing, and doing it well. And, surprisingly, my favorite gelato was found in Venice...Pumpkin! It was in this small little gelateria off the street from where the local produce and fish market is held, and we found it on the rainy day while trying to find a way through flooded streets and keep our umbrellas right-side out.
We spent the weekend with my aunt and uncle again in Cinque Terre, hiking on the coast of one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. And oh, did we feast. When you're on the home turf of pesto and the home surf of delicious seafood, and the vino blanco grows so close to the sea that you can taste the salt with every sip, every meal is memorable. And did I mention the anchovies? I'll devote much more to that trip on another day, because it surely deserves a lot of attention.

Well, my slow postings have caused a traffic jam of experiences that have now become one big RAMBLE, and now I'm just hungry. I planned to focus on the sweet things we've eaten, particularly gelato, but since the seafood has now shown up I guess it's become more about the sweet life we've been leading on this amazing adventure!

Granted, we've had our fair share of train strikes and crowded sleeper trains and bad lasagne (don't ask Andy about that one), but all in all it has, after five weeks and with three to go, truly been "la dolce vita."

Monday, October 25, 2010

a Burgundy cruise.

Well, technically not a cruise. More like camping. But fun! We spent last week on a total adventure: navigating a boat through the canals of Burgundy, operating locks, exploring small villages and markets, eating our body weight in cheese and chocolate, and watching Gilmore Girls on a laptop while trying to keep warm as the temperature dipped to 29 F.

Small harbor in Dompierre-sur-Bresbe, France.

The boat company switched our itinerary a few days before we left Paris, and due to the strikes in France we were unable to change our train tickets. So, we kept our original plan to spend the night in Digoin, France, and the next day, the company lent us their car and we drove up to a very small village called Chatillon-en-Bazois. They had "upgraded" us to a bigger boat to make up for the inconvenience of switching routes. With all the new extra room, we invited my aunt, who lives in Switzerland, to come with us for the week.

Our lady boat, Siloé. Striking a pose in the countryside.

Pulling into to the écluse and the neat little houses their keepers live in right next to the locks, each with its own personality. One sold homemade wine, jam, and honey. We bought all three.

Once "locked" in, the water rises or falls according to the lay of the canal. One or two people rope the boat to the sides as another helps the éclusier.

And out you go!

Over at Andy's blog, you can watch a video he and my aunt Susan compiled and streamed to document the weeklong journey. And he has more sides of the story, too.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

fleas and bones.

We took the metro out to Porte de Clignancourt for the world's biggest flea market, as they call it. Over 2,000 stalls, from the most chi-chi with crystal chandeliers and fine art to the most unrecognizable truc (thing) sitting in a box. Our goal was to find that happy medium for my bohomeme space back home at Found on Fremont.

Even the world's largest flea market wasn't enough to loosen these purse strings. Although Andy did tell me, "You're not cheap, you're just very particular." I was flattered.

So we searched high and low for what I was particulating for (yes, that's a new word I coined, it's a verb) and I even participated in bartering, which is something I hate to do, especially in another language.

I'm a little impressed with myself, mostly with the way I've mastered the "dumb nod." You know, the plastered clueless smile while my head bobs up and down and my mind frantically tries to piece together what this old man wants for this old piece of paper? There's an art to it.

My particulating worked out nicerly, see!

The next day, we woke up early and got in line to go down below the streets of Paris and see the Catacombs, where 6 million bones of Parisians, including Marie Antoinette, are stacked in rows upon rows. And don't be mad, but there was a McDonald's (McDo) across the street and we bought coffee to warm our hands while waiting.

After rising out of the bowels of the city 45 minutes later, we walked to Place de St. Sulpice and had lunch in front of the fountain from a little picnic we had packed that morning. The weather, as it has been all week, was perfect.

Andy was hiding down there.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

food in Paris.

We've had a busy past few days taking in the sights of Paris, including the giant "flea market" yesterday and the catacombs this morning. Tomorrow, the Louvre.

You may have seen on the news the strikes throughout France, and yep, we were right in the thick of it. Everywhere we went today, there were people with signs, megaphones and stickers.

What's a visit to France without la grève or a Red Party parade?

First, on Saturday morning we went shopping for groceries at the marché d'Aligre. A loud and overwhelming affair, to say the least. But here's what we came home with: butter, free-range eggs, lettuce, green beans, strawberries, grapes, cucumbers, avocados and tomatoes. Our meat we buy daily or every other day. Baguettes are fresh every day from Le Grenier à Pain and tonight's was hot out of the oven and kept my hands warm the whole way home winding through the neighborhood...and burnt my mouth a little as I kept tearing off pieces to eat.

Then sometimes we enjoy a café, but mostly we make it at home with our F&M good stuff. And we are alway excited about crepes.

But, and I say this contently, besides the very blatantly obvious, so far I feel pretty fortunate in that daily "Parisian living" isn't a very far representation from the way we live our life in Portland. It's not as glamorous, and definitely more casual, but we haven't afforded ourselves the opportunity to be glamorous here in Paris, either.

And that has allowed me great freedom to just enjoy and not feel like I have to go chasing after an "experience" that I think I need to have here. I'm very happy about that.

But, I do admit, oh the butter!

Caught red handed! 
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