Sunday, August 28, 2011

France day 26: Au revoir

I can't believe it's over. It feels just like yesterday that I arrived at the train station fumbling with French I learned in high school. I've met so many great people this month and have made so many great memories. I just don't want to leave, why does it have to be Friday already?

The good-byes started in class while our teacher handed out our certificates, report card and also the class project we did this month, a class newspaper. After class we head out into the courtyard as always. Everyone's saying goodbye to their new best friends, some people are even tearing up because they can't bear the thought of leaving. We need more time!

Sumire and I had an afterschool errand to go get flowers as a thank you to our wonderful host mom. To call her wonderful would be understatement actually. She goes way above and beyond every day. She wakes up before us every morning (even when we have a 7am excursion) to set out breakfast for us. Two bowls, two tablespoons, two teaspoons and a mug. Coffee for me and hot chocolate for Sumire. She even only takes out the three kinds of cereal that we like and the two that I like best when Sumire was away. She does this without having to ask which ones we like best, she just knows. I am so lucky.

Since I really wasn't ready to say good bye for the last time at school, I invited everyone to the French coffee shop at 4pm so that I could get some eating, packing and napping done beforehand. I was getting ready to go out the weather changed for the worst as if it was matching our moods. The sky was grey except for occasional flashes of light and it was raining so hard I thought the streets would flood. But it was worth it to see my friends one more time. Not mention that this coffee shop is more than generous with chantilly. Mmm

Is there more coffee or chantilly?

We spent so long at the coffee shop that I was going to be late for dinner but on our walk home we found the most grandiose house/museum. It had free admission so we checked out the modern art while I was getting even more late. The art inside was really interesting but I think I liked the building itself. It had beautiful windows and also a French spiral staircase.

As always, dinner was fabulous and I thankfully wasn't late since our meal wasn't ready yet. We had quiche sans pâte (quiche without pastry) that puffed up like a soufflé and had a crunchy crust. Dessert was waffles with different types of spread and also a Tours specialty: Raspberry cream. Mme. says that she thinks she almost figured out the secret recipe and even the lady at the bakery says she's pretty close. It's made with a meringue base with raspberries but apparently there's a secret ingredient she hasn't thought of yet.

Quiche sans pate

Raspberry Cream!

I decided to go on a walk after dinner and bumped into a friend from class who convinced me to go out to la ginguette one last time and over wine and candy we said good bye for the very very last time.

Early wake-up tomorrow to pack :(

France day 25: Survey says. . .Eat

I went to class this morning to find our desks all pushed together and a board game in the middle. Today's lesson was to play the French equivalent to Family Feud. We had a great time yelling out Things couples fight over and Things that make you blush while Rivers in France has most of us stumped. After an hour of intense play, both teams tied. Once we finished our morning classes we headed to the garden behind our school.

 There's this grand staircase up the main building that was a perfect spot in the sun for us to celebrate the end of our month-long class. We quickly put our team work skills  together and cut, slice, spread and layer to create the wonderful ham and chevre sandwiches.

 I think what I'll miss most about France is the bread. It's so wonderfully crusty on the outside while the inside is delicately soft. Also, because it's the staple food here like rice in Asia and Pasta in Italy, it's extremely bon marche (well priced) and is baked constantly throughout the day. I really need to find myself a good French bakery in Vancouver but the fact that I've never seen anyone carry unwrapped bread under their arm probably means that there are none.

To wash down our fabulous sandwiches, we share several bottles of the Loire valley's greatest. During school. On school property. In case you have realised yet, this country is really awesome.

Another plus was that everyone seemed to enjoy the fruit tarts I made yesterday and I went home with two empty platters.

Many people are leaving tomorrow or early Saturday morning (like me!) so tonight was kind of our last night to enjoy Tours. As always, La ginguette is our hangout of choice. Who wouldn't want to dance under twinkling lights and willow branches?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

France day 24: Feuilletée

This month is soon coming to a close and I really wish I could stay longer. Tomorrow we're having a potluck party at school because it's our second last day of school and last day with our French Speaking/listening teacher. I suppose it's a little less terrible that most of us are leaving this weekend if we get to mourn with cheese and wine.

My host-mom makes these amazing fruit tarts sometimes for dessert and I wanted to make some to bring to class. Every time I tell her how amazing her cooking is she says that it's so simple anyone could do it. When it comes to these tarts, she's definitely right, for the most part. Because though  the tarts are easy to make, Mme. failed to mention how difficult it is to stop yourself from eating a slice while they're cooking. The smell is absolutely intoxicating.

There are many types of pastry in France like sable, brisée and of course, feuilletée! Feuilletée pastry can be found in a lot of different foods here from croissants, to quiches, and of course, tarts.  It's easy to see why it's so popular since all the air in it prevents it from tasting too heavy and the flakiness makes it super fun (at least for me) to eat. It's also my host-mom's favourite type and she's used it in many dishes she's made.

I don't know if this is a French thing or whether she's just brilliant but she had this great trick to put rolled oats under the plums on my tart to absorb their juice and the tart doesn't go soggy. The best part is that you can't even tell that the oats are there once it's cooked which is great because i'm not quite sure how appetizing an oatmeal tart would sound.

How many more hours until I can have a slice?

After dinner origami lesson

Thursday, August 25, 2011

France day 23: Heart tomatoes and eggs

Like I said wrote in yesterday's post, today was my turn to cook something from home. Since i'm not quite sure my host family would appreciate poutine and beavertails for dinner, I opted to cook something Chinese instead of Canadian.

One of my favorite dishes from home is a very common Chinese dish with tomatoes and eggs. My mother knows that I like it a lot so she cooks it quite often at home, but I on the other hand, have never attempted to cook it myself. After requesting a recipe from my dear mother, I was ready, sort of.

The say that you need good ingredients to cook a good dish. So since I'm working with farm fresh eggs and locally grown coeur de boeuf (beef heart) tomatoes, it definitely wouldn't be the ingredients' fault if this didn't turn out.

Thankfully it did and all three of my dinner guest enjoyed it immensely. No leftovers!

Tomatoes and Eggs
Adapted from My mother
Serves: 4

  • 6 eggs
  • Salt/pepper/oil
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tsp corn starch + 1/4 cup water

Suggested: cooked rice

  1. Oil and preheat pan
  2. Scramble all eggs and season with salt and pepper
  3. Cook eggs and break up large pieces and remove from pan
  4. Leave skin intact and slice tomatoes (I had 16 slices/tomato)
  5. Add tomatoes to hot pan along with sugar and ketchup and cook until plenty of juice is released into the pan
  6. Add back the scrambled eggs and stir to combine
  7. Mix the corn starch and water and add to tomatoes, STIR constantly (this will help thicken the sauce)
  8. Don't worry if the sauce still looks too watery, it thickens up as it cools
  9. Serve over rice

France day 22: Oishii

It's a tradition in my host-family that the students cook something from home one night. I think it's a great tradition and probably a lot of fun our host mom to try new dishes. Although she did tell us some horror stories, including one involving two american students making something terrible with onions and ground beef. Hopefully I won't disappoint (or worse, disgust) when it's my turn.

Tonight was housemate Sumire's turn. Sumire is Japanese and cooked two dishes that are somewhat familiar to me.

Rice balls filled with nori  (seaweed) and miso. Wiki calls them the japanese equivalent to sandwiches.
I love love love them and going to look for them back in Vancouver.

I almost exclusively eat udon in soup at home so this was a nice change. Sumire's learned enough French in 3.5 weeks to tell us the dish is a little salty because soy sauce here is salted while it isn't back home. So proud!

My turn tomorrow, wish me luck!

PS here's a beautiful sight from this afternoon

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

France day 21: Two bikes and a garden

The Loire valley of France is home to some of the most beautiful chateaux of the world. Since they're all pretty close to each other, there is no better way to see them than by bike.

Obviously my host-mom is amazing as usual and packed me a lunch. She says as I run out that door "The croissant is still hot so you can have it now if you want"

. . .did she just say still-hot and croissant in the same sentence? I have no words to describe how incredible a fresh croissant is, no words at all. So you'll have to use your imagination for this one.

S and I were off to Villandry, a chateau most famous for their garden. But first we had to bike 21km in the unrelenting heat. At least the view gave us a bit of a distraction.


We were starving after our ride so we had lunch right when we got there, right under a tunnel of grape vines. Our lunch location was tasty, haha.

View from lunch spot

The gardens of Villandry speak for themselves, so I'll just leave you with some pictures.

Pear trees

Job requirement: OCD

The forest

It was so hot out we needed a break from sightseeing and laid on the lawn behind the water garden. Next we went to the sun garden, where it felt at least 5C hotter. Good thing the next item on our itinerary was to get out of the sun and see the chateau itself.


Water garden

Sun garden

Is this a mirage?

The chateau is much more modern than the previous ones I've seen and provided great views of the garden. Can you imagine waking up to these sights?

When sending your kids to their rooms doesn't work, try the dungeon

We had a little more pre-game fuel (i.e. Ice-cream) before heading back. I highly recommend seeing Villandry if you're ever in the region, it was so worth the 42k we biked and the revenge my quads are paying me right now.

21 here, 21 back


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