Saturday, July 17, 2010

Three Days of Birthday

Just a month late, but well worth the wait.  As my birthday present, Joe, Molly, and Amy presented me with a day in Paris first joining Wendy Lyn for a walk of the neighborhood artisnal merchants ( ) and ending with an evening cooking with Susan Herrmann Loomis of On Rue Tatin fame (  and  ).  And the best of that present?  Spending three days with Molly and Amy (sorry Joe!).

Arriving on what in the US is Bastille Day and in France is Fête Nationale, we watched the parade of military planes gliding through the dark skies.  Our hotel was a short distance from the Gare de Lyon, therefore, we could drop off out luggage before strolling through Paris.
Our first stop was the Bastille, former site of the prison where many just lost their heads.
 The darkening skies gave a flavor to the military parade that was before us---and the rains came
giving us no choice but to find a small cafe to enjoy lunch while sheets of rain flooded the streets of Paris.
As you will soon find out this was an eating adventure which continued for three days.  The following morning I met Wendy to begin the journey into Paris history and foods, present and past.  A pâtisserie (bakery), fromagerie (cheese shop), chocolatier, and wine bar were all part of that adventure.
Patrick Roger had the most wonderful chocolates from the world and created (or played with) chocolate to fill his window with whimsy.
What animal do you see?  Take time to look at his web site for interesting fantasies.
The final stop on Wendy's tour was a popular wine bar, L 'Avant Comptoir.
Time to sit?  No, time to stand at the bar and sample its fare.  Sausages, artisnal butters and salts, a huge artichoke that once the leaves had been consumed, the choke was cleaned cut in bite size pieces, and drizzled with an aioli to be enjoyed by all.  Thank you, Wendy, for a delightful day.
The evening brought us to an apartment in the area which would be our gathering place for cooking dinner with Susan Herrmman Loomis.  
To begin we had a salt tasting, great comparisons of taste, five nut oil tastings, and a comparison of chocolates, each with a different percentage of chocolate. 
Our recipes were posted for us to begin the preparation of our dinner.
Cucumber and Fresh Cheese Verrine
Pork Chops with Parsley and Green olive Condiment
Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette
Sautéed Cherries
I had also brought two bottles of Amy's rosé to dress our table.
What a delightful evening!  Thank you, Susan.
Our hotel was great.  Small and tucked into a delightful neighborhood.  We totally enjoyed it.
The most important part of the location is a delicious pâtisserie that we visited, no, frequented while we were in Paris.
The morning treats...
and the afternoon treats...
were all delicious.  Amy had to do a sampling of several and there wasn't a flake of anything left for the pigeons!
Oh, and yes, there was just one more we had to try before we left, a raspberry filled confection.
What a fun, but short three days.  Thank you  for a real adventure.  I would recommend everyone put this on your list to do.
Au revoir,
(If you need any more information on the places or people in my adventure, let me know!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Total French Immersion

Summer had begun.  As the golden light settled over the village of St. Siffret, new friends gathered in the gardens to enjoy the conversations and a delightful dinner.
These Provencal gardens were uniquely designed to include things of old from the region, now put to new use.
Ah, summer.  It had begun....until two days later my view had changed.  I was going on a unique adventure of being totally immersed in the French language and culture.
Taking Elmo, my granddog, for a two day visit, I looked forward to the early morning walks in the vineyard while the air still had a chill.  Amy and Matt were traveling to the eastern Vaucluse about and hour and a half east,  to a granache wine seminar.  And than....I felt ill.  The night was weeks long.  When the phone rang early to check on the puppy, all I could say to Amy was, "I am sick."
The world changed.  She made two phone calls to neighbors and Matt was on his way back home.  The neighbors, just four of my many heroes, arrived to walk Elmo, call the village doctor, and as John did, a retired English doctor, make his diagnosis, which was correct.
Dr. Mauvezin, our village doctor, arrived at my door, called doctors in Nîmes and Matt and I were on our way for help.  (Can you imagine a doctor who arrives at your door????) 
My next hero, my son in law, Matt, who had to endure every test and translation.  
Arriving at the hospital, we were met at the door and were shown to where the first tests would be taken.  Finally, the verdict arrived, vesicule biliaire, gall bladder with an infection that had to be controlled before anything could be done.  Antibiotics and three weeks later, the laparoscopic surgery to remove the gall bladder would be completed.  Quick recovery.  No problem.
HA!  The infection would not go away, therefore, after a  week in the hospital, Amy and the doctor, (ah, I forgot to say the Dr Gaujoux did not speak English.  Well, most of the nurses did not either.) decided that 9:30 the following morning would be perfect for that old fashion surgery as the infection continued.  It was completed right at the assigned hour, with a greeting before surgery from Dr. Gaujoux in English.  The remaining time in the hospital, eight days.  Ugh!
I felt like I was inside an apricot.  Everything was apricot and couldn't be escaped by going into the halls.
The metal shutters came down to keep the sun out while letting in a gentle breeze.
The morphine, under lock and key, made me very happy.
It is difficult to play a game show in French.  Well, for me.
If toes stay still long enough, they get painted---by Molly who had arrived by air.
Now, the French being known for their superb food, did not excel in this category.  This is breakfast.  Latte tasted delicious, however, the hard toast was not a choice.  Finally, for dinner one evening, I went to the nurse and asked for just mashed potatoes.  They were delicious and 'real'.

The staff was wonderful with excellent care.  We all learned new words and if we could not decipher what someone was saying, gestures were animated.  There were lots of smiles and giggles.  Since the doctor liked my spunk, I got to go home two days early. 
Being home I spent quiet time in the courtyard napping under my small rectangle of the world.
It is now four weeks later and summer has again returned.  I have helped with bottling of the wine, labeling those bottles, eaten gooseberries at the neighbors, walked in the sunflower fields, and gone to the markets.   I have napped under the blue Provencal sky.  Wednesday, I am off to Paris with Molly and Amy.
Summer is here.  And my French?  I do know new words.... used only in hospitals!

No, we have not received the bill, yet.  Our insurance company does know it is coming.
Thank all of you who helped.  And thank you Amy for all your translation and just being there.
Happy Summer Days

***I do not recommend this type of Total French Language Immersion!