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June 21, 2010

Saturday morning Daniele took me to the market to buy groceries for next week. We had a cup of coffee before leaving, and agreed to have brunch when we got home. I walk through a different market a few days a week for school, but this one was huge! My favorite part was when we bought some fennel from a family farm, and a father and son were working together, bickering about the weight and price of a certain bunch of radishes. Regardless of language, people are the same all over the world. Even though I could only catch a few words, I could fill in the narrative pretty well from similar scenes back home. Once they settled their debate, it was our turn to pay, and the father wanted to thank us for waiting for a long time, so he gave us bag of cherries for free! He said to Daniele, for the pretty girl! How kind. My least favorite part… the butcher stands. I even told Daniele the night before that I was ready to try some meat in July, but I was not prepared to see the butcher cutting off chicken heads and feet for everyone to see – how can one get used to the sound?! We wandered around until our basket was full, and even managed to pick up the last strawberries of the season. How sad! After we left, we ate a wonderful French brunch. First we had some sort of smoked fish, which Daniele cooked in milk to mute some of the smoky flavor. Next we had cucumbers and yogurt. Then, we had a French specialty, oeuf a la coque. This link is in French, but they are really really simple to make. You put eggs in cold water, and bring them to a boil. Once the water is boiling, immediately remove the eggs. Once they cool a bit, you cut off the top, like in the picture, and dip bits of bread in the yolk. After that, you use a spoon to scoop out the rest of the egg white from the shell. It was harder than I anticipated to get everything! Lastly, we had fromage blanc with raspberries. What a treat.

The afternoon was gloomy, so we couldn’t go to the beach. Instead, I met up with a few girl friends and we went window shopping. Of course I found something to buy at H&M, a pack of earrings for just 3 euros. Totally worth it. I didn’t care for one set of earrings in the pack, so I switched them out with a different pair of another set. No harm, no foul, right? The other girls got a few things as well, we all paid, and left for some more shopping. “Excuse moi, Mademoiselle,” I heard a deep voice behind me say. We all turned around. I guess over the camera he saw me switch out the earrings, and thought I stole something. Luckily Caitie was there to speak eloquent French with him, and explain that I only changed the earings, I didn’t take any. I was quite impressed to understand everything he was saying, but in the heat of the moment I could not find the words to communicate well. I was mixing up the words for ‘why’ and ‘because,’ so every time I tried to explain myself I was saying,”Why? I switched them?” instead of, “Because I switched them.” So each time he answered me with, “Because you took them!” We could all see he was frustrated, as was I. If I could explain myself in French I would have asked him, “Why I would steal something worth less than a euro, especially since I bought a pack of 4 of the same earrings!” I offered for him to search my bag, but the police had to come to do a search, he could not search them himself. “Ok, fine,” I said. I had nothing to hide, and I really wanted him to see I didn’t take anything. But when I got so upset I think he realized I didn’t take anything, and he let us go without any problems. What a mess! Afterwords, we went to Monoprix to see if we needed anything there. I decided I really needed some red nail polish to paint my nails and feel better about the afternoon. Once I was home, and I had red nails, I felt much better!


French Toast

June 19, 2010

Finally, I was able to go out with all the IFALPES students! It was so unfortunate that France lost to Mexico, 0-2, but we all managed to have a good time. Nothing like drinking a few beers in the center ville, followed by a some wine in a nearby French apartment. In all reality, the landscape here is the perfect setting for a happy-go-lucky life style, and I am so gracious to experience life in Annecy. Crazy to think I have been in Europe for a month now, and I still have a little over two months to go. And I’m being perfectly honest, I haven’t experienced all that much culture shock since being here. I think the reverse culture shock will be much more severe.

(Before I forget, dinner was a cheese soufle, a simple salad, and a wonderful pineapple dessert. The dessert sounded really easy to make, orange juice, rum and a few spices made the sauce for slices of tender pineapple.)

Today at school I felt like I actually understood my teacher! We had class as usual, and then she told us of the Appeal of June 18th. Afterwords, we had a group sing-a-long with all the other classes to learn the words of the Degora songs performed in Annecy tonight. Click here if you want to learn the songs too! Don’t worry if you do not recognize the language, it is made up. The other cool thing about this video is the guy is walking around the lake in Annecy! So you can get a taste of what it is like to see such grand mountains just beside a huge lake.

Tonight I had dinner with Daniele. We had basil pasta with salmon, goat cheese, brucchetta, and for dessert: FRENCH TOAST. With the last few slices of bread from a few days ago, she made really thick slices of french toast with sliced cherries on the side. They were in some sort of sauce, not too sweet but sweet enough to be a dessert. Then, I had a really fun night with my roommate, Guillaume, and some friends from school. We started out by the lake, and ended up at Rivers Bar. A few people left for a body painting party, but all in all, it didn’t sound like my cup of tea, so I laid low and caught up with fellow classmates. The bartender was Irish, and was really excited to speak English to us. Later, I had a heart to heart with Guillaume, and we discussed how it is so different to live with a family, or host mom, than living alone. I exclaimed, “Well, it is just hard to have a Mom!” because it is difficult to always have some one to report back to, and make plans with so far in advance all the time. It is very different from home because I have arranged to eat every dinner with Daniele, and I am grateful for the wonderful cooking, don’t get me wrong, but I must here for dinner each day. And a sort of independence is lost from always having to be home by 7pm, and also having to explain each and every vacation plan, whether it is for evening plans, the plans for a day away, or even the plans to go on a week’s vacation. Similar to living at home, but it is hard to get used to another set of norms enforced by what was a complete stranger. I’m sure I will get used to it as time goes on, but it is different to not have a car or any sort of way to really be alone, ya know? And understand I love learning about French culture through Daniele, she is so helpful to explain why things are they way they are here. More likely than not, I am just feeling a little homesick, or maybe I am just feeling like I need a bit of solitude, but I am sure the feeling will pass. On another note, I can’t wait to visit Germany again! One week from today I will be on my way!


June 17, 2010

Yesterday was a long day, but a good day nonetheless. I had to say goodbye to my longtime favorite umbrella, it just wasn’t doing the job with the huge downpour yesterday! I must not have been the only one with this problem, most shops had sales on umbrella’s. After school, Daniele and I went to the local Annecy theater for their annual catalogue release event. They open up the theater and everyone rushes to a seat, we arrived just in time to get a seat in the back row. The stage had only a small table and chair, a bottle of water, and a glass upon it. Then a huge screen was lowered, and a man came out to talk about each of the plays / music events / dance numbers. Some even had previews displayed on the big screen! We returned to the house later than anticipated because the event took longer than anticipated. Daniele was disappointed because this meant dinner was cold! Last night was also the season finale of “Nouvell Star,” the French version of American Idol. We had to watch, so for the first time we at dinner in front of the TV. Even though it was not hot, the dinner was very very good, and all new things. To start we had simply radishes with salt, bread and butter. You just take a bite out of the raw radish, dip it in salt, and then have some bread. The radishes are less like round golf balls here and more like oversized pills, really small and oval-shaped. Less strong also, but good like this! Then we had a specialty of Lyon, a fish casserole sort of thing. Lots of cheese. As Daniele dished me up, she exclaimed, “CATASTROPH!!” A cold dinner for the French is a catastrophe I guess. I though, why wouldn’t we just reheat it? But I guess this is a no no for French cuisine. For dessert, we have a wonderful rhubarb pie, and we just poured cold cream on top. It was delicious.

French is not my forte…YET

June 15, 2010

Well, looks like it is a good thing I am staying for an extra month in Annecy. I didn’t do so hot on the first exam…  It is comforting to know the French grading scale is much different from America’s, grade inflation is no problem here! Luckily we have one more test before this term is over, so I can improve my grade before then.

Plenty of good things did happen today!

1. Found out my Mom and Don are coming to visit in August! Can’t wait to show them around town.

2. Tried my first French macaroon! Pistachio of course, and it was delicious.

3. Dinner was fabulous. White fish marinated in white wine was first. Daniele brought out what looked like a pizza next. It was in fact, a tart of sorts with cheese and tomatoes and Herbs de Provence. We had salad dressed with her own homemade vinegar. Dessert was simple, the first cherries of the season and meringue cookies!

Ce Bon Weekend!

June 14, 2010

Friday it was so nice to go out with a few friends in Annecy. I have a feeling the Irish Bar in town, Fin Kelly’s, will be well visited by the group  in the weeks to come. Before my time here is through, certainly I will visit The Bull (Click on this link to see why I have not gone yet… the logo speaks for itself!), but Friday I was ready to hit the hay pretty early in the evening.

Saturday I went shopping at H&M with Jenn. We ran in to plenty of people from school, as shopping is the preferred Saturday activity for American students! After this we sat by the lake for a few hours and watched people walk by. Worth noting is the number of high heels found in a park, the number of children with pacifiers (in strollers too), and the number of people in love. Yes, France is for lovers! And of course, all the locals dressed in their best. The children, even the ones with pacifiers, were certainly dressed better than myself! All day I was looking forward to having dinner with Daniele. I was so excited to hear the news of her new grandson over a home-cooked meal! Unfortunately, I left a note out meant for my roommate saying I would be home later in the evening. Daniele thought this was a note for her and did not prepare a meal for the evening. I ate a cheese burger for dinner instead, it was far far far from the excellent cuisine of Daniele! After the dinner I met up with Beth for a walk around town, some ice cream, and the last film for the Annecy International animation Festival. Nobody knew what would play that evening, and I couldn’t have been happier when the French maitre-d announced they would play The Fantastic Mr. Fox! It was the winning film of the festival. I wish the humor was more apparent for the French audience. They showed it in English with French subtitles, and even so I think Beth and I were the only people laughing at every punch line!

Sunday was a relaxing day indeed. I took the chance to sleep in and then enjoy a breakfast with strawberry jam prepared by Daniele’s son-in-law Marco. C’est superb! Then, Daniele took me all around the lake. It was bigger than I anticipated… 27 miles! The opposite side of the lake is much quieter and less touristy. She told me plenty of wealthy people have vacation homes there. One restaurant, which is temporarily closed, proudly displayed its menu to the public. A dinner for two, no drinks included, a mere 300 Euros! Maybe one day…

Finally! Dinner with Daniele. To begin, we had her (and my new) favorite white asparagus with parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper. Next was the main course, probably one of my favorites yet. We had a plate of beautiful Lima beans fresh from the market with toast covered in a black olive paste topped with a white fish covered in homemade pesto. Then we had a few different cheeses, followed by dessert. A special cake of the Savior region with cherries! The cherries still had pits so they would not rise to the top of the cake. “And if there are no pits, it is not the real thing,” Daniele explained to me. The entire meal was worth the wait! Honestly though, it is better when Daniele is here because it is good to hear her speak french. I definitely felt like my French was not as good last week because I was speaking in French for only 4 hours a day instead of 5 or 6. Still, so much to learn!

First Test, Last Sandwich

June 11, 2010

Knocked out my first french test today! I gotta say, I have a lot to learn. It went alright, but I think the next test will go much better. Definitely hard to get back in to school mode after having only a month off! I never thought the day would come when I would get tired of sandwiches. After all, they are one of my all time favorite foods. But, today, I was reluctant to buy one for dinner. I have yet to discover any other quick meal solutions. Luckily, Daniele returns home tomorrow from her trip to Paris. I can’t wait to hear all about her new grandson, Louie!

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon by the lake. What a way to spend the summer! It is beautiful, especially on a clear day. We put our feet in the water, and it wasn’t too cold. Quite nice actually! I feel determined to walk around the lake one day before the summer is through, 45 km is nothing I can’t do! I made it maybe a quarter of the way around yesterday, but alas, my shoes were no match for the walk ahead of me. Another time soon I will go. I do have to say, my favorite part of the day was when I was talking about T&C with a few people from Boston / New York. Immediately, they asked if I worked in the cupcake shop with the bacon cupcakes! What a small world it is. They too saw the “Unwrapped” episode featuring the wonderful bacon cupcake creation! In case you missed it, and want to here what all the buzz is about, click here.

This will be a long weekend, Monday the CU students will be pulled out of class to tour a fromagery. Should be fun – I do have my sense of smell back, so I will get the full experience. Tonight is my first real night out in Annecy. Really looking forward to a night, followed by a morning to sleep in. More to come soon!

Now Playing

June 8, 2010

Annecy’s International Animated Film Festival is in full swing! This year marks the 50th anniversary of the festival. Sort of reminds me of film on the rocks, but in a completely different setting. I do miss the advantages of stadium seating back home! Each night at 10:15 it is dark enough to project a movie on to a giant blow up screen. Last night we went for a few drinks beforehand at Cafe des Arts and then headed over to the lake. (Daniele is out-of-town, so sadly I had a mere chicken sandwich with mustard for dinner…) Anyone who has traveled to Europe knows how easily one grows accustom to the numerous ice cream shops. Much different from our limited DQ and Cold Stone experiences. One stand that sets up shop by the lake was even open late to serve the film crowd! Maybe this is a good time to sneak in one of my favorite things– I love how when a store is open for 24 hours, no matter what language a town speaks, there is a sign that reads “NON STOP.” Of all the phrases to borrow! Makes me smile every time.

Today was a pretty standard day woke up early, made myself some espresso, skyped for a bit, and then headed to school. Afterwords I had time to find a cheep pair of sandles. All my shoes are wearing out so fast from walking so much!  I honestly haven’t bought a pair of shoes for myself since I worked at Puma, it was strange being on the other side of the counter! We found a store that had all their shoes on the sales floor, so we didn’t need an employee to help solve the mystery of our European shoe sizes. I can’t get used to the number of store owners / workers who just stand outside their shop when nobody is inside. Whether it is a butchery or a bakery, it feels a little intimidating to go inside. In any case, this town seems small, and I guess standing outside opens the door for more time spent catching up with neighbors and regular customers without trying to sell something. I spent the evening with my new best friend… a French to English Dictionary.